The Pileated Woodpecker is back. Bill saw it fly by and there are new holes in the utility pole. Generally, we look at this arrival as a sign of impending spring. This year, however, it is hard to tell. The light changed early, which should also bring spring, but even this is not an absolute indicator. I guess we will just have to wait it out.
When I was a little girl weather like this would send my family to the farm for "mapling." Sometimes we helped with the local taps. Sometimes we made sugar and ate pancakes. It was a sweet time.
My father remembers learning to drive at an early (and illegal) age so he could gather sap on the way back from the creamery. At the farm, they would fill the milk cans with milk. At the creamery, they would collect the milk and steam clean the cans. One or two of the cans would then be filled with hot water for the family's weekly baths and the rest would be filled with sap on the way back. It was a great way of getting a lot of work from a 13 year-old.
Out behind the horse barn, the sap was poured into a long trough perched on a square wall of stones. They used discarded railroad ties for fuel because they burned evenly for a long time. It must have smelled horrid! The sap boiled for hours. Sometimes when a batch took longer than usual to reach the right temperature, which necessitated staying up late into the night to watch and stir to avoid scorching. There is no cure for scorched syrup.
The final finishing was done on the kitchen stove in Grandma's copper pot. Then grandpa took bottles of the syrup into Binghamton where he could sell them for five dollars a gallon. Now that was real money! Any leftover syrup could be used by the children for a Pour.
A Pour was a party where children made maple sugar. Grandma would thicken the syrup even more and pour it into individual dishes. Then the kids would stir like crazy. There was a prize for the first person to turn the bowl of syrup into white sugar. The kids even got to lick the bowls after the majority of the sugar was collected. It may not sound like a great time, but I wish you could hear Dad's voice as he recalls these times. His tone becomes soft with memory and his smile is so good to see.
I see similar smiles when members of this congregation talk about old times. The experiences we share help strengthen our common communion and broaden our world views. It is vital that we not lose them. We are, after all, Robinson Memorial.