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Hello everyone! It’s Elka McCabe, daughter of Kate McCabe, owner and operator of Vermont Evaporator Company! I have grown up sugaring, and the memories I have make the late winters in Vermont so much better. Sugaring provides an opportunity to get outside, socialize, and have fun. As a kid, all of those things are very important.

Kids playing near evaporator

Elka and her brother Seamus, and cousin Fergus getting ready to make maple syrup.

Sugaring is a great activity for kids of all ages and provides them with an opportunity to learn and grow. I am extremely grateful for all of the time that I got to spend with friends and family, because of the lasting memories and friendships that were created while sugaring.

 

Collecting Sap

Man carrying buckets of maple sap

Elka’s dad carrying sap buckets in the driveway.

My earliest memories of sugaring are going to collect sap in the woods with my dad after he would come home from work. As the sun set, we would walk down the driveway pulling 5-gallon buckets behind us on a sled. Once we got to the woods, we would have to abandon the sled and tramp through the thick snow to the maple trees. There we would excitedly peek inside each of the sap buckets to see how much sap had collected. As a kid, one of my favorite things was to rescue the bugs that the sap had caught.

Kid pulling wagon full of maple syrup

Elka pulling a cart of maple sap!

If it was cold enough, a layer of ice would form in the bucket, and we would hurl it to the ground and watch it shatter! When we first started sugaring, we would walk around the woods in the summer and early fall, identifying the maple trees on our property. Our family also learned together about how to identify and tap maple trees. This was a great way to bring us together during a season other than sugaring season. You can find some interesting tips about tapping and identifying trees here!

As a Young Kid

Kid playing on ice with no shoes

Elka, with no coat (or shoes) enjoying making maple syrup outside on a sunny day!

But, the real fun was the sugaring itself! We would collect the sap every afternoon during the week. Come Saturday, my brother and I would wake up, eat, and head outside where the boiling had already started! Sometimes the day was warm enough that we could forgo our coats and bask in the sun.

Throughout the day, neighbors, friends, and family would stop by to chat, eat, and try some half-boiled sap (Which is the best thing ever! We call it “sap syrup!”). Sugaring is a great excuse to invite people over to hang out, and once the season was over, we would give the syrup away to the people who worked so hard to make it! As a kid, I came to understand that “working” meant talking around the evaporator!

Kids making maple syrup

Elka, Fergus, and Taft playing in the backyard while making maple syrup!

My brother and I would spend the day running around outside and playing with our dogs, then returning to the evaporator to warm our hands. By the end of the day, we would all smell like wood smoke and maple syrup. As an older kid, it’s nice to see my younger cousins enjoying being outside. Sometimes they rope my brother and me into playing a game with them, which always ends up being fun. Anyone who lives in Vermont can tell you that sugaring season isn’t always the prettiest, nor the driest, but we always look forward to it because of the good times that it brings.

Kids playing in the melting snow

Elka’s cousin Oliver, brother Seamus and cousin Fergus playing in the melting snow while the maple sap boils!

As an older kid

The sweet smell of the boiling syrup and the laughter and distant conversation of those huddled around the evaporator is almost always enough to pull me out of my room, (something that does not happen often!). Usually, I find that when I venture out to the evaporator, it is hard to pull myself away from the warm and welcoming environment, even when I have a LOT of homework to do. Sugaring is a great way to bring people closer together, even when they live in the same house!

Splitting Wood

Uncle Collin splitting wood to make maple syrup!

While the fire requires constant tending, it also provides time for meaningful conversations. I would often hold onto my warm mug of sap syrup, savoring its sweetness, as I listened to the conversations of those around me. These conversations could be deep and thoughtful, or light and funny, and I felt grateful to be a part of them. At night, when the trickle of people had dissipated and the drowsiness settled upon us, there came a time for quiet reflection. We would sit and listen to the crackle and pop of the fire and feel the warmth on our faces. As I grew older, I came to appreciate these moments more and more. Sugaring lasts the better part of a day, so we would often eat dinner around the evaporator, paired with, you guessed it; sap syrup!

People around an evaporator

Uncle Patrick, Uncle Collin and Mom waiting for the sap to flow.

Growing up Sugaring

Everyone’s experiences of growing up sugaring will be a little bit different than mine, but I can say that the impact it has had on me is universal. Sugaring provided me with an opportunity to connect with friends and family, get outside, and learn many important skills. When I leave to go off on my own adventures, sugaring will definitely be one of the things that I miss the most.

About the Author

Elka grew up in Montpelier Vermont. She loves biology, art, swimming, and knitting. In the fall, Elka will be finishing high school at Glenalmond College in Perthshire, Scotland.

Person

Elka McCabe, age 16.

 

a family sitting on a log in a river with matching t-shirts

From left to right, Aunt Nikki, Cousin Oliver, Uncle Patrick, Elka’s Dad Justin, Elka, Cousin Fergus, Elka’s Brother Seamus and Elka’s Mom Kate.

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