Friday, April 1, 2011

Maple Sugar Season in the Catskills: A Trip to Shaver Hill Farm and Making Our Own Syrup

Evaporating fresh sap on our woodstove.

Homemade syrup with French toast by the woodstove.  Bliss.

Vintage sap tins and one of our sap buckets near my studio.

Scenes from Shaver Hill Farm;
horses and a mural located near the modern evaporator in the barn.


The last weekend in March is Shaver Hill Farm’s annual Maple Sugar Weekend.   We attended, charmed by the horse-drawn wagon rides and their museum of maple production artifacts, but the real reason is to pick up more sap buckets and candy molds.   My King loves tapping our sugar maple trees, evaporating the sap (which looks like water when it comes out and tastes awful) on our woodstove, then boiling it into syrup and candies (sweet as sugar), just as the Native Americans in the region once did.   Maple trees don’t suffer harm with the act.   In fact, some trees have been tapped for over 100 years.

The folks at Shaver Hill Farm (310 Shaver Hill Road, Harpersfield, NY) sell their maple products worldwide.    My favorite?    Maple cream (it's lactose-free).  

I love winter, and this is our last official winter activity.   Because of the ski industry and ever-present blanket of snow, many of us don’t take all our exterior holiday decorations down.   We ‘scale back’ in January to just candles in the windows, or a single fir tree in the yard, a snowflake in the window of a seasonal shop promising a Memorial Day re-opening.   One by one, homes and businesses here in the Catskills will turn their holiday lights off.   The towns will take the cheerful ‘Peace’ street light flags down.   We’ll suffer through April: mud, melt-by-noon snow, taking saplings for firewood, and cleaning out the chicken coop.   In May, at last, it will look like it snowed again—only it will be crabapples and cherry blossoms whitening the earth.

* * *

If you’re lucky enough to be able to attend The Savvy City Farmgirl’s annual antique sale “Shop the Shed”, please do!   Joy’s been featured in Fifi O’Neill’s Romantic Prairie Style and numerous publications.   I called her the other night and she’s so busy she can’t even get her regular stuff listed on Etsy.   It’s going to be bigger than last year, so bring a big car if you go!   “Shop the Shed” specializes in French, Industrial, and Farmhouse goods.

Until next time, stay shabby!

The bravest flower of the year.

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NanaDiana said...

I grew up in Bradford Co., PA so sugaring was a big thing for us. Muy Uncle had big barrels cut down the middle lengthwise and he would bank a fire under them and we would stir and stir and stir for hours to boil the sap down to syrup...and as soon as he wasn't looking we would slip a pail into it and take it up to the house for maple sugar...oh my...that was soo good. You know the funny thing is- I like REAL maple syrup AND maple sugar is my favorite candy in the world but id DO NOT like maple flavored products. Isn't that weird?

Love your blog..reminds me of brother lives outside of Corning in the countryrside...xxoo Diana

Vicki said...

I loved reading this entry. I can't imagine what maple sugar-ing is all about, or what the world is like in NE USA. I live on the opposite side, in the West, and it's been very hot all week, in the 90s with gusty, dry winds. The Catskills seems so much more interesting than where I live. I think you have found a quality of life there which cannot be duplicated. I hope you feel lucky. I think you're very lucky! I'm sure your life is richer for embracing your surroundings and living fully with whatever it can offer you. Maple sugar...I haven't stopped to think about it much or how it comes to be, so now I know. Thanks for such fun. I have never seen a crabapple or a cherry blossom.

The English Romantic said...

I loved this post it sounds so sweet and delicious like your maple syrup. I didn't know about the sap being clear.The cream sounds so good too.
It's early spring here in England and very pretty everywhere with the trees and flowers blooming. The Magnolias are especially beautiful.

Mary Ann said...

Oh, I imagine that maple syrup is heavenly tasting. I enjoyed reading about it so much.

Mary Ann
Handcrafted by Mary Ann Miller

Handcrafted by Mary Ann Miller's $50.00 giveaway!

A Cottage Muse said...

"Sweet" post!!

Marina Mott said...

Great post!!xx

Kristan said...

I love your pics, they are so rustic and beautiful. The Catskills winter looks so serene, and the syrup making looks like a heap of fun!
I am in Australia, so hardly see snow...It looks great.
Thanks for this post!

Norma said...

You paint a wonderful picture of the joy of the changing of the seasons. I sure would love to taste that maple syrup but must admit I think your winter cold would kill me for sure!

Vicki said...

I wish I knew the name of the delicate flower forcing through the snow on this post. For those of us in non-snowy country, could you maybe show the photo again and identify it? It's beautiful! Thank you. We are starting our vegetable garden now on the west coast USA; husband tilled the ground over the weekend. Lemons need to be picked, we have volunteer bell peppers coming up from last year and roses are blooming in abundance just in time for Easter. So much rain for us this year, and late snow on the top of the mountain peaks above the valley has just melted off, no doubt now, for the season. Soon, we will have willowy agapanthus waving its blue-purple flowers to the blue-purple jacaranda trees. Whereas you will be awash in white-carpeted earth, ours will be a sea of this blue-purple of which no name really fits...not violet, not lilac, not really purple; just a color all its own. Again, I loved this particular post and went back to it because I love hearing about the landscape and life of another place. You described it so perfectly. Thanks for sharing.

My Shabby Streamside Studio said...

Vicki: sorry, dear, it's a crocus!

Vicki said...

Thank you! A crocus. (What's a crocus? Sheepishly, because I should know this, I looked it up; it's part of the iris family. Iris is something I do know of...more purple! It comes up every year in our yard on its own, where it really doesn't even get much sun under the decades-old loquat trees. Iris planted amid white calla lilies; also, ancient, reach-to-the-sky, pink hollyhocks, which are just delightful. Our little bungalow was built in the 1920s and an arborist told us that one fuchsia-colored crape myrtle dates from the original landscaping, but three oak trees are actually from the mid-1850s, when there was no town, just isolated ranches...we're relatively young here, 'way out West.)

Anyway, I do appreciate the identification of the "snow flower." Sorry to say I'm not a hands-on gardener...but hubby is, and I enjoy the literal fruits of his labor as well as what was planted by my grandmother's family before me, who lived in the home long before I was born.

Plant bulbs are a fascinating mystery in a long-established garden. Ours is tended sporadically; it's a bit wild, rambling and overgrown. We've had drought for seemingly-endless years but got a lot of "precipitation" this winter/early spring, so I'm waiting to see what comes up, old plantings having been coaxed with deepest-soaking rain. It's fun anticipation.

Please write more short stories about your surroundings there in the pretty Catskills; love to hear about your own place and the progress of your studio(s); also the area in general, the weather, the towns, the very definitive seasons (as all four are much more subtle in my region).

Happy April!


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