Maple time!

Yes! Our five maple trees are tapped and we are just waiting for the sap to roll on in. Obviously, we are not in the commercial maple making business, but our two-gallon target has been consistently produced over the years. We’ve annually managed to collect enough maple sap to make enough syrup to drown our Sunday pancakes. This five-tree maple farm is our version of homesteading.

March and April are traditionally sugaring months when the cold nights and warm days create the perfect scenario for the sap to flow. The sap “runs” during the day, filling buckets attached to the tree. Larger commercial locations place self-syphoning tubing systems which connect each tree allowing for less manual labor and more efficient evaporation time. The collected transparent sap has a very low sugar content. It takes approximately 40 gallons of boiled sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

My husband always touts the educational aspect of collecting sap, making sure there is a math project available to all. There are other lessons mixed in with this sweet activity that always allows us to share the experience with local elementary school children, adults, and neighbors passing by. Though our fire-burning kettle may not be for everyone, there are plenty of commercial operations and people willing to share their maple making knowledge with the masses. I usually go for the tastings.

The next two weekends, March 23-24 and March 30-31 are designated as part of the New York State Maple Weekends with a mixture of samples, pancake breakfasts, story times, and wooded walks. On the New York state Maple.com website, anyone can search for the nearest producer, activity, and wholesale opportunity. Here are a few ideas to get kick off springtime maple dreams.

The Paul Smith’s VIC offers free sugar house tours, a pancake breakfast ($8) as well as free children story/activity time. A trail pass is still required to access any of the VIC’s ski trails. Tupper Lake’s Wild Center is also offering its annual pancake breakfast, sugarhouse tour, and campfire talks. The breakfast is an additional fee to the admission. Keep in the mind that once there, snowshoes are free with admission so eat hearty and then work it off around the snow-covered pathways. The Cornell Maple Research Station, Lake Placid is located right on Bear Cub Road and offers free tours of their sugarhouse as well as walks through their maple forest. I look forward to their recipes and demonstrations set up by Cornell Master Gardeners. (This is the place I first tasted coffee made with sap instead of water. It was so delicious, I now always nick a few gallons of precious sap to save for my tea and coffee.)

There are plenty of other places to watch producers make this annual favorite sweetener. Look for area restaurants incorporating fresh maple in their menus as well as and local shops selling special maple sweets.

Diane Chase is the author of the “Adirondack Family Activities” guidebook series, “Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities.” For more family-friendly activities go to www.adirondackfamilytime.com.