Keeping traditions alive

If you have ever wondered why the cost of maple syrup seems to rival other more luxurious cuisine, I urge you to consider these figures. According to the University of Vermont, using the " rule of 86 " one can safely say that it will require 86 gallons of sap divided by the percent of sugar to produce one gallon syrup.  So if your sap contains 2% sugar then it will take 43 gallons of sap per one gallon of syrup.  This simple formula illuminates only a general understanding of what it takes to extract the sugar maple's sweet nectar.  With ice and snow atop thawing earth I trudge through the awakening forests and picturesqe backyards of Old Deerfield.  I've been following Chip Williams of Williams Farm into the backcountry loaded down with sap buckets and tops, and of course the conduit between the tree and bucket, the tap.  We play follow the leader, Chip selects the trees to tap like an old prospector laying claim to rich ground.  He drills a small hole in the tree and places the tap, quickly followed by me who places the bucket over the tap and the process is completed by the last in line, covering the newly placed bucket. We repeat this on hundreds of trees a day.

This laborious phase sets in motion the age old tradition of maple sugaring that the Williams family has been doing for over 150 years in the Pioneer Valley.  My season of stonework is coming soon, but for now and the coming weeks I will be walking the land in search of full sap buckets and the footprints of our past stomped into the fabric of New England's history.  So next time you buy maple syrup remember the "rule of 86" and if you can support local farms like Williams Farm, your pancakes will taste that much better.

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