For the fourth consecutive year that I have been around, a group of Bennington students tapped the sugar maples in the grove behind Jennings, in order to reap that sweet syrup so uniquely characteristic of this biogeographical environment. Last Tuesday, the taps were drilled into the trees and the buckets hung. During the week, volunteers gathered the sap from the overflowing buckets and dumped them into big plastic garbage barrels. On Sunday, we started boiling. We boiled all day and into the night. Around 3:00 AM, we siphoned off the last of the unfinished syrup and banked the fire to die down. We got over a gallon from the first round, and will probably end up with between two and three gallons. Although we still have a lot of sap collected (and potentially with more on its way, depending on the weather), it remains to be seen whether we will be able to boil it all. And with the weather turning warm, the unboiled sap may grow bacteria and not be good for making syrup.
However, this years sugaring operation was and lovely and successful endeavor for us all. I have worked on this project in some capacity each year since I was a first-year. Each time I have stood with friends around a boiling pan of sap and marveled at this incredible phenomenon. All around us the trees are drawing water up from their roots and, with energy stored from last summer’s leaves, imbuing it with sugars that it then propels upwards to create new growth. By creating a dime-sized hole in the cambium of the tree, we divert some of that liquid, which we then boil down for hours, concentrating those sugars down into syrup. To me, this process is nothing shy of magical.
Thank you to the collaborators!