Alex Palmer's Natural History Notes and Thoughts

Thoughts and reflections on various social and environmental issues, as well as naturalist observations from the great outdoors.

Tapping into spring…a great way to connect with the woods

Photo 2

Photo 1

As early spring seems to drag on, with damp, cloudy days and frigid nights, it can be quite a tease for those who are cabin-fevered from winter. You wake up and brew the coffee, and pour Aunt Jemima’s “maple” syrup over your pancakes, getting a good dose of your morning high fructose corn syrup.

Whether you know it or not, the very act of pouring that thick, smiley, 99 cent bottle of syrup indicates a disconnect with nature, especially if you live in the Northern latitudes. The good news is that it is easy to remedy your intake of over-commercialized, artificially flavored, mass-produced morning meal.
The first thing you should do is get outside. Smell the fresh, early spring air. If you’re in the city, then perhaps consider walking or taking the bus to a local park or picnic area. In either case, you are likely to see the sugar maple tree.
Maple sugaring is the process of tapping sap from a sugar or other maple tree species, and boiling the sap down until the sugars concentrate to from maple syrup. Not only is using pure maple syrup on your pancakes a great way to ensure a tasty breakfast, but it brings you to realize the connections we are loosing with North America’s eastern hardwood forests. It’s a process anyone can see right from the start…from when you tap a hole in the tree and let the sap flow into a bucket (see photo 1), to pouring it into the boiler (see photo 2), and then ending up with delicious maple syrup or maple sugar. During all of this, you spend time out in the woods, gathering a common specialty-store product, only there are no aisles and check out lines to wait in. You do not need your credit card. All you need to do is breath in the air, and enjoy those pancakes!

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