Gathering Sap

As I look out my window at the patches of snow, and the big, white, billowy clouds scuttling across the sky, I am reminded again of the weather immediately preceding sugaring when I was growing up. I will conclude my account of what sugaring was like on our farmette today.

On a Saturday when sugaring was in full swing, I helped gather sap. I used a pail that was so big, it almost dragged on the ground when I carried it as I went from tree to tree, pouring the sap into the bucket and then carrying it to the tank, where Datt lifted it up for me. When the tank was full, I stood on the wagon and held on to the tank as we headed back towards the sugarhouse to unload. He drove the wagon to a the place above the sugarhouse, where he let down the pipe on the gathering tank onto a metal pan with a pipe connected to the storage tank inside the sugarhouse.

As we got near the sugarhouse, I drew a deep breath and caught the first whiff of boiling syrup, heavy and sweet and full of spring. I walked into the warm steam and had the smell all around me and heard the sap pouring into the storage tank above the hissing of the boiling sap and the crackle of the fire in the arch. Mem had some eggs boiling in the sap. I ate one, and then I got to taste the new syrup from a cup. When Datt called, I got back onto the wagon and we headed back out to the woods for more sap.

During one of Datt’s trips back to the sugarhouse, I stayed in the woods. It was so quiet as I sat on a stump. I could hear the water from the snow and spring rains soaking into the ground. It sounded like bubbles popping. I could hear the cars going by out on Forest Road.

When I heard a rustle in the leaves behind me, I turned and saw a rabbit. It didn’t see me, and slowly, it hopped away. I heard the hammering of a redheaded woodpecker high up in one of the maples. I watched him for a long time in the branches. His bright red head made it easy to track him, especially in the sun. I decided redheaded woodpeckers were my favorite birds.

I saw chickadees, nuthatches, juncos, and tufted titmice flying in and out of a big bush with red berries on it, each with their own song or twittering. Then all of a sudden, the birds disappeared, all at the same time. A moment later, I heard the jingle of the horses’ harnesses and I looked up the trail. Don and Tops came around a bend, and then the wagon came into view, Datt standing behind the round gathering tank. I rose to my feet and picked up my gathering bucket. I realized how much I had needed the rest.

That night, I took Datt’s supper to the sugarhouse. I was unwrapping his baked potato when he said from the other side of the arch, “Lomie [Lomie was my Amish name], you did a good job helping me today. Thank you.” I stopped what I was doing, I was so shocked. Datt very rarely, if ever, complimented us children on anything. All of those times when I had tried pleasing Datt and hadn’t succeeded, and now I was being complimented for something I had actually enjoyed doing. It was one of the first times in my life when I realized compliments must come freely, and that when we do what we ourselves find satisfying and not just so someone will praise us, (in other words, when we don’t actually need the praise), that is when we get it.

When I got over the shock of Datt’s compliment, I resumed fixing his supper plate and said, “You’re welcome,” in as neutral a voice as I could muster.

In my next post I will tell how one of my sisters and I got into mischief one spring when Mem was out in the sugarhouse and we were alone in the house.

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1 thought on “Gathering Sap”

  1. In my Amish family we rarely said ‘You’re welcome”; far more commonly one would say, uncomfortably, “Sure.”

    We were not a demonstrative family. :)

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