March is the dullestÂ month of the year. We rush into March withÂ dreams of spring and (as yesterday’s massive snowstorm proves) we are rewarded with another month of winter parading itself as a new season. Stuck somewhere betweenÂ “winter wonderland” and “budding spring” I usually use these weeks to update our website, clean out the junk drawers, and make plans for warmer days. But last year we started a new March tradition with our family: making homemade maple syrup.
Learning to makeÂ maple syrup had been on our bucket list for awhile, and in the summer of 2015 we casually mentioned it to my grandpa at the farmhouse in Door County. Turns out, years ago, when the land was still an orchard, grandpa’s family used to tap the sugar maples every year. Some rummaging through the picker’s cabins drummed up pails and beautiful, old spiles. It was with a complete lack of knowledge and an impetuous spirit that we tackled our new project last spring.
On a Monday afternoon we cancelled our previously scheduled plans and drove up to Baileys Harbor on a whim.Â Using a hand-drill and hammer we knockedÂ the spiles into the sugar maples around the farthest reaches of the property with no plans of how or when to retrieve them. By midweek the jugs were overflowing and mom and uncle KevenÂ were scrambling to replace them in time. Maple tapping had begun.
Between small cookstove batches,Â there was aÂ sap boiling weekend where all of us were there together. Gallon after gallon of sap simmered down over the woodÂ fire while we gathered more jugs and spent the long lulls in camp chairs eating hot dogs and drinking coffee. The end result was 30+ jars of sweet syrup and one of my favorite rolls of film to date.
This year we’re making a few changes with some newÂ tools, five gallon pails, and a little more forethought. We will be changing our boiling time to make the syrup thicker and sweeter than last year’s batch.Â March might not be good for much, but it’s definitely good for maple syrup.
Film scans above from March 2016, Nikon FG 35mm Kodak Portra 400