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On Tap: Maple Syrup

17 Mar

By Beth Bauer
ZENTX Media Group

Imagine the perfect stack of pancakes with a sweet, velvety maple syrup slowly making its journey across every bite.  These heavenly bites can’t be recreated by some “maple flavored syrup” created in a lab or test kitchen, it only can come from nature, and most likely a tree you have in your very own yard.  The art of making maple syrup has been around for thousands of years and it’s a fun, hands-on activity that you should try at least once in your lifetime.

Maple syrup making has become an annual tradition every February through April for my husband and I since we bought our house in Midland five years ago.  Although, I am by no means an expert (and with full disclosure I rely on my husband to do the brunt of the work, but someone has to taste test, right?), there are eight main steps you need to know in order for you to make your very own maple syrup too.

maplesyrup

Step 1: Select Trees & Buy Equipment
Identify and mark your maple trees while the leaves are still in tact before winter begins so that they will be easy to spot in the midst of winter.  Also, obtain the equipment you will need for making maple syrup, which includes: taps (also called spiles), buckets, storage bins, filters, and bottles.

Step 2: Make Sure Timing is Right
February through April are the main months for collecting sap, ideal timing is when temperatures are warm and above freezing during the day and below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) during the night.

Step 3: Tap Trees & Attach Buckets
Tap your maple trees by drilling a hole on the side of the tree that receives the most sunlight.  An electrical hand drill works the best.  The hole should be the diameter of your tap and should be at a slight downward angle.  Once the tap is in place, also attach your bucket or collection container.

Step 4: Collect Sap
Make sure to check your buckets every few days and transfer whatever sap has collected to your storage container.  Keep collecting sap until the season has ended or you have gathered enough sap.

Step 5: Filter & Boil Sap
Syrup is made by removing the water from the sap, so only the sugar remains.  Sap contains only 2% sugar, so it’s important to boil out all of the water.  But before you begin evaporating the water, you should first filter the sap to ensure any unwanted items like bugs or twigs are removed and discarded.

Step 6: Filter Again & Bottle
Filter the syrup again to ensure you haven’t missed any unwanted items and then poor into your sanitized bottles.

 Step 7: Remove Taps
It’s important to remove the taps from the trees.  There is no need to plug the holes, they will close by themselves.

Step 8: Enjoy!

Making maple syrup is an activity you should definitely add to your bucket list.  But if you want to celebrate the season without all of the work, I recommend checking out The Chippewa Nature Center.  They have numerous fun activities based around making and eating maple syrup made on their premise.  What’s your favorite thing about maple syrup?

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Things I’ve Learned from My Father

4 Feb

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I’ve been a daddy’s girl my entire life – I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb with a fondness for my father.  The other night I was looking through some old photo albums and remembering fun times my dad and I have had together.  Doing so, made me realize that the values my dad taught me, whether intended or not, have impacted who I am both personally and professionally.  Often we forget that we learn the most from those we interact with daily, like our parents and peers and those interactions often shape and influence who we become and the career paths we choose.  Below, are some of my favorite values my dad has instilled into who I am today.

1.  Stay Calm and Think It Through
Staying calm can be hard to do, but somehow my dad has mastered it.  I recall my 10-year-old self, fishing on a small boat with my dad, brother and little cousin and getting “hooked”, which resulted in a minnow slowly making its journey down my back.  I of course freaked out, which I’m pretty sure I’d still do today at 30 but my dad told me if I didn’t stop wailing around I was going to flip the entire boat over and we would face a much bigger problem.  I think that is something we can all relate to, we stress ourselves out thinking about how a problem is going to effect ourselves but we don’t stop to think about how that same problem is affecting others as well, maybe with a greater impact.   So next time a problem arises, stay calm and think it through and if it’s still really bad, then allow yourself to freak out.

2. Don’t Hesitate to Help Others
If you know my dad, most likely he’s helped you in some form or fashion.  That’s just the type of person he is, he’ll gladly help anyone without a single complaint.  He’s always encouraged me to help family, friends, coworkers, and strangers in any way possible, knowing that those sometimes “unpleasant experiences” will lead to more meaningful relationships and some of my fondest memories.  And you know what?  He was right.  There have been many instances where it would have been much easier to say “that’s not my job or problem” but by taking the time to help someone it has benefited me both personally and professionally.  So next time you’re trying to come up with an excuse of why you can’t help someone, make the time to help them out in any way you can.

3.  Find Laughter, Humor, or Joy in Every Situation
How does staining a never-ending fence on a humid 97 degree day sound?  Well right now it might sound tempting being stuck in this polar vortex, but it didn’t seem so great this past summer on day 4 of our staining spree.  But sure enough, I could count on my dad to be whistling away while covered in stain, enjoying the time spent with his favorite (and only) daughter.  We’re often surrounded with so much negativity that we forget to look for any positive aspect of the moment.  So next time you face a difficult or unpleasant situation, take the time to dig up some laughter, humor or joy – trust me, it’s worth it.

These core values that I have learned from my father have greatly impacted who I am today, both personally and professionally.  As a mother of two little boys I’m eager to see what values they’ll learn from my husband and I, but also what I’ll learn from them.  What are some of your favorite values you’ve learned from your parents?