When I was a young kid from Alfred, I used to spend school vacations and summers at my grandmother’s farm in Waterboro. It was here that I learned the art of making maple syrup and how to swear from my Uncle Gib. (The swearing was not appreciated by my mother.)

Our syrup-making facilities were across the road from the farmhouse. It was there that the uncles had erected an open-faced hut with a roof. Inside there was a good-sized fire blazing in a fire pit; hanging over the fire was a large kettle with the sap from the maple trees simmering in it. It had to simmer for quite a while to boil down to golden sweet maple syrup.

We had many maple trees on our acreage. We tapped them the old-fashioned way: boring a hole in the tree, inserting a metal spout and hanging a bucket on the sprout to catch the sap. Sap had to be collected every day, and Uncle Gib hitched up his team of oxen to a sled and began his rounds to collect the raw sap. I enjoyed riding in the sled pulled by the oxen, Buck and Broad, who plodded along, steam coming from their nostrils. In the woods there was still enough snow so the sled glided along smoothly.

We returned to the sugar shack to add more sap to the kettle over the fire. To make a quart of maple syrup took many gallons of sap, as it had to be boiled down. I was fascinated by all this activity and would accompany Uncle Gib as he collected the sap, while my other uncle was back at the hut tending to the fire and sugaring-off process. I was allowed some of the finished product to pour on the clean snow and make myself some maple sugar candy. Oh, boy, was that a treat.

This process went on until the sap was not running anymore. The syrup was poured into Mason jars to be used until time to tap the trees again next year. It was always delicious. (It sure tasted good on homemade biscuits, too.) I did not know if they sold any for cash, but the money would have come in handy during those lean years in the 1930s. Although I was sometimes lonely on the farm with no kids around to play with, I looked forward every year to maple syrup time.

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