Sunday, March 11, 2012

The In-Between Season

Part II

             We need freezing nights and bright, warm days.  We need the ground to thaw during the day but harden in the cold dark.  We need a power drill or an old fashioned hand crank.  We need a hammer and spiles.  We need buckets and covers.  We need a little patience and alot of time.  We need to set the evaporator out of the wind and prepare for action.
            Every year as the seasons change from winter to spring, Grandpa takes out the drill and tapping equipment.  He sets out on a quick journey of long days checking buckets and watching water boil.  He conquers cabin fever by the non-stop action of boiling and filtering and boiling and bottling and getting it all done before Spring truly arrives.  His is the action of the In-between season.  He loves to tap the maples and create syrup.
            The sweet taste of maple syrup fills the air in the kitchen.  All the windows in the house are fogged from all the boiling going on.  There are glass bottles strewn everywhere, and jars and funnels and pots.  Outside, as the sun warms the world and the snow melts away, a trail of steam leads to the shed turned sugar shack.  For the next couple of weeks, the shed will be filled with the hum of the propane burner keeping the evaporator hot.  The collected sap boiling away will eventually be brought inside and transformed into the amber elixir of pancake bliss. Further down the muddy trails of the farm, buckets hang from several maple trees.  Checking them for content is a favorite chore of the kids, as they prance through the muddy snow from bucket to bucket.
            It is quite a bit of work and the product is protected like some liquid treasure.  Grandpa grumbles along as he makes the syrup, but he never misses a season.  Each year he says it will be his last, until cabin fever comes a callin' again.  And when it is all over, and the bottles are stashed away, he parts with a bottle only when a truly special guest comes to visit, his face beaming with pride.  Pancakes will be smothered in it.  French toast will be doused with it.  Waffles will catch it.  The bottles will have a place of honor on the table.  And when the breakfast bell has rung, Grandpa will stack his plate with warm, fresh thick-cut bacon, a couple of eggs, the main course of choice, and then he will reach across the table and grab the EGGO syrup he bought yesterday.


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