Sweet and Sad

3 Mar

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Spring is surfacing in Northern Illinois.  The goldfinches at the feeders are beginning to show a little more yellow in their winter gray.  A February thaw melted away the mounds of snow and even enticed a few animals from their naps.  After years of living in the midwest I know that winter isn’t through with us but it’s these little sparkles of hope that keep you going through the dreary month of March.

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However, one sign of spring is easy to miss unless you know what to look for.  When the days are warm but the nights are still below freezing the sap in the sugar maple trees begins to flow upwards.  If you know how you can tap into the tree and drop by drop the sap will flow out of the tree and into your bucket.

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Once the buckets are full the real work begins.  Sugar Maple Sap is mostly water, so it takes quite a bit of reduction to turn it into syrup.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup.  In order to avoid hauling buckets of sap all over creation it’s best to start this process close to the sugar bush.

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Even in the best maple sugaring regions like Canada and New England, the sugaring season is short.  Once the buds on the tree have begun to leaf the chemical composition of the sap changes and the syrup isn’t palatable anymore.

I’m disappointed though, because I won’t be around for any of this.  I won’t be able to make syrup, watch the prairie bloom, or rejoice in the creeping transformation of an Illinois spring.  I’ve spent the past few weeks in a whirlwind because tomorrow I leave for here:

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Photo Courtesy of April’s Mom or possibly her brother.  No one is really sure who had the camera at the time.

That’s right, I’m moving to Yosemite National Park!  While I’m excited beyond words to be going there, I’m a little bit sad because I feel like there are still things that I wanted to do here and friends that I am leaving behind.  I know that change happens just like winter fades away each year and opportunity, like the flowing sap, is usually a limited time offer.  It still makes me wonder if there is a creature that is ever sad to see the spring.

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~Robin

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