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It’s maple time!

It takes a lot of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup, but is it ever worth the time and effort. (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

Yes! We are getting ready to tap our five maple trees and just let the sap 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. That is enough syrup to keep us in maple-drenched waffles for the year and allows me to use all the extra sap for maple coffee*. This five-tree maple farm is as close to homesteading as we will ever get.

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. Since the sap has such low sugar content and high water content, it takes approximately 40 gallons to produce one gallon of maple syrup. Commercial locations use self-syphoning tubing systems that connect to each tree, allowing for less manual labor and more efficient evaporation time. We are content with collecting each bucket and making our own maple magic.

My husband always touts the educational aspect of collecting sap because most activities can be turned into a math lesson. There are other lessons mixed in with this sweet activity that allows us to share the experience with local elementary school children, adults and any 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 go for the tasting and stay for the pancake breakfast.

Though local maple farms may offer tours, the designated New York State Maple Weekends, March 21-22 and March 28-29 showcase the places for tastings, pancake breakfasts, storytimes and wooded walks. Check out the NYSMaple.com website and search for the nearest producer, activity and wholesale opportunity. Here are a few ideas to get kick off springtime maple dreams.

A few local places to check out for sugarhouse tours, pancake breakfasts, and samplings are The Paul Smith’s VIC (518-327-6241, paulsmiths.edu/vic), Tupper Lake’s Wild Center Community Maple Project (518-359-7800,wildcenter.org), Saranac Lake’s Mark Twain Maple Works (518-891-5915, marktwainmapleworks.com), Keene’s Black Rooster Maple (518-576-9792, blackroostermaple.com), and The Cornell Maple Research Station in Lake Placid, (518-523-9337, blog.cornell.edu/cornellmaple). There are plenty of other places to watch producers produce my family’s favorite sweetener as well as restaurants and local shops selling special maple sweets and treats. Enjoy!

*Maple coffee or tea: Substitute fresh maple sap for water in your coffee maker or kettle. Brew your tea and coffee as usual. It is springtime in a cup. You will understand why I always nick a few gallons of precious sap to save for my tea and coffee. Enjoy!

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time guidebook series, For family-friendly activities go to AdirondackFamilyTime.com

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