Maple Syrup Season 2013

Posted on April 29th, 2013 by Tonia 11 Comments

We came, we went, we made over 30 gallons of maple syrup.

Since my last post, I have swung wildly from “Still like winter! Winter’s OK! Take your time, I’m fine!” to “Oh my god, when will it eeeeeeend. I haven’t seen the sun in 8 long months. I’m going to die.” But turns out all this late-season cold weather and snow that we’ve (I’ve) been whining about made for a pretty great syrup season! It was like the old days, before global warming, when spring was an actual season that lasted a few months instead of just an afternoon melt session in March where winter cedes the win to summer in the time it takes to frantically brew iced-tea and shave your legs.

My maple-syrup-loving self was delighted that spring didn’t vanish before our eyes, but my I-NEED-SOME-DAMN-VITAMIN-D self was just a liiiiiittle crabby about the full-blown snowstorm we got on April 18. Yeah. We’re talking around 20″ of new snow.

So before we talk about our awesome maple syrup season, here’s a taste of what we were dealing with around here last week (I’m looking for a little sympathy here, in case you didn’t pick up on that.)

Ok, that’s quite enough of that. Moving on.

This was the first season in several years where we needed snowshoes for tromping around from bucket to bucket in the woods. The fact that the roots of the trees were insulated by all that snow made the season progress slowly and steadily, instead of the sap gushing out at light-speed and being done within a week. The slow runs made for easier collections because the buckets would only be 1/4 to 1/2 full each time we went out, rather than brimming/over-flowing.

The sugar content was very high and went up as the season progressed, starting out at about 2.5 and ending at 3.5. This allowed for a shorter boiling time and lighter syrup (the longer the sap cooks, the darker the syrup.) We achieved the ideal honey-amber color and smooth, buttery flavor with each batch.

My little brother Danny firing the evaporator and checking sap levels in the pans.

Lunch, enjoyed in the sap house while we worked: Curried butternut squash soup and fresh-caught trout.

Mike pouring finished syrup into the canner.

My mom, Sammi (Danny’s girlfriend), and me canning up a batch.

As a special treat in the middle of a particularly long day of boiling, we made up a whole pile of doughnuts and dunked them in the hot syrup.

You guys…I’m not even going to attempt to explain how out-of-this-world delicious they were. There are no words– just loud, happy, grunting noises and chewing. We will be doing this every year from now on.

As usual, syruping was a lot of work and we all sigh a little sigh of relief when it’s over and normal-life returns. But being together, working out in the fresh air and quiet woods with my family, joking and talking and laughing as we go, is what makes it special and worthwhile. It’s a yearly tradition that has taken place almost every year of my entire life!

Happy 26th season, Maple Moon Sugarbush! Thanks for the liquid gold, and the memories.

Oh, and Mr. Spring? In case you didn’t get the memo…it’s April. You can go ahead and warm up and melt all this snow and start pushing up tulips anytime now. That’d be great.

P.S. Posts from seasons past can be found here.
P.P.S. I promise I will start taking REAL photos again…Instagram is great for documenting little moments here and there, but I think we can all agree that my cell-phone camera compares poorly to the real thing.


  1. Carla says:

    My question is do the fumes give you a sugar high? Because I seriously am geting one just looking at the jars.

  2. Devin says:

    I seriously LOLed at the line about brewing ice tea and shaving your legs. It does seem like a frantic rush to do both when it warms up! I’m glad the weather was at least beneficial to your syrup. I thought we had it bad in the twin cities, but you all”yous guys” up Nort really got a beating! Holy cats! Oh, and those donuts, ummm, yeah, those looks heavenly!

  3. Alison says:

    I am very happy that I got some syrup, but what I think I really want is one of those doughnuts!

  4. Tonia says:

    Hahaha, Alison, next year you’ll just have to come with us to a boiling so you can experience the wonder of a fresh doughnut in fresh syrup. 😉

  5. melissa says:

    DUDE. this is my first time on your blog (via esb comments). your home is beautiful. and THIS POST is insane. this project is a dream.

    I know that you take gorgeous pictures and don’t need any others, but one day I would LOVE to come out to your spot and take photos of this process. or anything else you guys get up to on this dream land of yours.

    regardless, thanks for the beautiful post. hope spring comes soon for ya.

  6. Tonia says:

    I’m honored, Melissa! Your work is beautiful. That would be really fun for us…to be on the “other side” of the camera for once. :) Where are you located?

  7. melissa says:

    yes, let’s do it! i’m in africa for the summer, and then either staying on the east coast (maine or ny) or returning to LA, where i’ve been based for the last 5 years.

    i’d be happy to travel out to you guys- sometime early next year, or if you want to do the maple syrup process we can plan it around that!

    and i think this goes without saying, but this would all be 100% free. i love meeting new folks & honest to god spend my spare time doing exactly the same thing i do for my job – taking photos of food prep and nice people.

  8. Tonia says:

    That’s a great way to end up living an inspired and interesting life! I’m looking through your Africa photos right now going WOW WOW WOW! Let’s email about this when you get a moment! :)

  9. Love your blog! I grew up on a farm but live in the city now. Perhaps one day we’ll go back, but until then your posts will fill that void.

    Post more when you have the chance!

  10. Susan says:

    Hi Tonia,
    I just found you (via esb) and had to give a shout-out — I too live in Northern WI and my husband and I are currently under contract to purchase a small farmette. Can’t wait to read through your archives! (I just had some of our 2013 maple syrup on my pancakes this morning. Gotta love friends with a sugar shack and access to a large sugar maple grove.)

  11. Mari Beth says:

    Wow, just hit upon your blog…those are the most beautiful photographs of snow I’ve seen, I think. I grew up in NOrth Dakota so I really feel it. You have a good camera and sense of….placement, or something, I don’t know but wow! Plus, fresh homemade doughnuts dipped in homemade syrup? Ah. May. Zing.

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