Sunday, March 26, 2006

sugar rush

Two thousand taps hammered each year into trees. Tubes connecting to thick hose, carrying the whole clear mess to a tub in a hut, deep in the northwoods of Wisconsin. Boil it all down and you’ve got some 500 gallons of syrup. There isn’t much time to get at the faintly sweet juice of the sugar maple. Maybe two weeks. Mid-March, that’s it. Tap it out, boil it, filter it, then sell it at the weekly Dane County Farmers’ Market. Mother King’s maple syrup.

So whatever happened to the tin buckets catching the drips?
Put an urban kid in the northwoods and there you have it: complete ignorance about maple syrup technology.

It’s all about tubes now, connected to trees then to each other, looking like someone had spun a web of blue around the maple forest (get it right, Ocean, it’s called a sugar bush).

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sugar bush

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Inside, the hut smells like you want it to smell: logs burning in the first stove, the syrup picking up a deep amber tone, filling the space with a warm aroma of waffles for breakfast.

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feeding the fire

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finishing tank

The tubes are so much cleaner than the bucket thing. Animals, bugs, shreds of forest life all made their way into the buckets.

A walk through the forest down to the river, following logging trails and deer tracks, over moist leaves (there are mushrooms here in the summer; you’re Polish… you like mushrooms, no? I like mushrooms) makes you kind of wistful for a grandmother’s house at the end of the run. The type of grandmother who lives in rustic places and does nothing but bake and cook for you all day long. (I had a grandmother like that, back in Poland; I picked mushrooms for her and she’d swim them in butter and chop them into pierogi.)

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eau something or other

April 22nd. The first market day for Madison. I don’t use maple syrup much, ever since everybody in Dane County is pretending to be on one diet or other and big breakfasts and brunches belong to the days of buckets dangling from trees. But I’ll stock up. For the future. Liquid gold from up north.

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