A few blocks from my house, there are big Menards buckets sitting under a tree with tubes coming out of them. The tubes are about eight inches long and go right up and into the tree. I was a little confused when I first saw it. Did this tree have some kind of disease? Is this how trees get intravenous treatments? What does Emerald Ash Borer look like? Is it contagious? Does it hurt the tree?
I think like this all the time. I’m not kidding. It’s torture.
Then I realized nothing was going into the tree, silly, something was coming out. For as much time as I spend outside, I can’t identify squat so I had to assume it was a maple tree. These were taps, and pretty fancy ones at that. The sap just went neatly into the bucket.
There is a very short list of things that make me happier than resourcefulness. I loved these urban syrup farmers, whoever they were. I’d tap my own trees if I could figure out which ones had syrup fixin’s in them, and which ones just had, ah, tree blood.
As soon as AP could walk I started dragging him to Sugarbush at Blandford Nature Center. It’s a great little celebration of syrup and the colossal big deal it is to get, like, one teaspoon. I make a big deal out if it too, and this week we headed over to the library for a few syrup-making books like we always do. The Grand Rapids Public Library also put together a list of books.
We only ever buy real maple syrup (little fyi – it’s cheapest at Costco, unless it goes on sale at Meijer) , but it’s tradition that we buy a bottle at Blandford and have pancakes for dinner that night. Sometimes it’s still really snowy, and sometimes it’s muddy but I like that. There is something about being able to enjoy the harvest of something in weather that vacillates like crazy from year to year that makes for a good, enduring, Michigan kid.
Blandford has changed their website about 18 times since I had kids; here is the current one with a list of events for Sugarbush. Try and get there for a guided tour; it’s really hands-on and interesting from the actual tree tapping (where they poke it and let the sap drip out) to the boiling and processing where the actual end result is achieved. It seems like kind of a hassle, it’s muddy and maybe there will be a crowd but really, this is the stuff that makes memories for kids, you know?