As soon as the snow begins to melt and the temperature breaks above 32 degrees during the day, it’s time to begin the maple syrup harvest. Which means in Minnesota, it’s tree tapping time.
I would liken tree tapping time to the first time your alarm goes off in the morning. There’s that day or two with a groggy yawn and a bit of denial (is this all starting up again?) because the sudden flow of sap racing up the trees is our sounding bell that winter hibernation is now over and farm life is about to ramp up to full speed.
Tree Tapping begins it all. Soon baby lambs, goats, and chicks will be born followed by the arrival of the feeder pigs. The snow will melt, uncovering our waiting garden, and seeds will sprout under grow lights in the kitchen. Fallen branches will need to be removed and fences repaired. The spring-and-summer-into-harvest train begins to slowly move out of the station, and sometimes a girl can feel a little overwhelmed by all that is to come. She might want to hit the snooze and hibernate a little longer.
But it’s time to wake up. And Tree Tapping serves as our soft start. We wade through the snow and visit our favorite trees. We know the big producers, the ones that will drip the most sap for us. And we talk about giving other trees a year off. We only harvest enough syrup for our family each year and to give as gifts. Small-scale fits us best and it means this process is filled with no added stress of livelihood or wages. Most of this syrup will end up on our kids’ oatmeal and in our morning coffee.
Each year the routine is pretty much the same. We drill a small hole into the tree and gently tap in the spile. We scramble to get the bucket positioned to catch the fast drips and then feel the same annual wide-awake joy. It’s all coming back to life. These trees will be green again! We may have felt that hope fade during the long winter, but watching the flow of sap dripping into the bucket is proof; warm roots are soaking up melted snow and life is returning to each branch.
There’s a mystery in it all, reminding me of our very creative and thoughtful God. Somehow the melting snow will defy gravity, moving up the trunk from roots to tree top. And in God’s goodness and great abundance, there’s enough sap both for the tree and for happy hobbyists like us, grateful to restock our sugar for the year. So while I may feel overwhelmed by the work ahead, I also carry an awareness that God is the one working the miracles and graciously inviting us to tap into his ways.