The Trees Thought Otherwise

There is a story of an ancient king who had a beautiful golden ring made for himself. He called his counselors together and tasked them with putting an inscription inside the ring that would sustain him in any mood. After sweating for some time (in those days, the penalty for failure was death) they came up with, “This too shall pass.” As the story goes, the king was pleased, and his counselors kept their heads.

I believe I would have a different inscription put on my ring, if I wore one. It would say, “Don’t get cocky.” Every time I learn this lesson, I seem to learn it the hard way. Learn is probably too strong a word here, because I will probably never learn this lesson. Once again today, this was made clear to me.

I’ve been tapping maple trees for 5 or 6 years now, and I pride myself in being a fair observer of nature. This year we put out about 70 taps; the most we’ve ever done. Maple trees only run their sweet sap in the spring, and only in the north where the spring temperatures are cold nights and warm days. For the past few days, as I watched this season unfold, I was pretty sure it was ending. The red maples started budding, most of my sugar maples had slowed their runs of sap, and a few of them were running small amounts of sap that had a yellow color… all signs of the end of the season.

I put off my normal weekly Monday trip to town this week in order to catch up on the boiling. We worked pretty steadily all day Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday’s run of sap was almost nil and included some yellow sap as mentioned above. I was cockily confident that today’s trip to the woods would be to pull the taps, clean out the evaporator, and call it a season. So sure was I that on three occasions, I explained to different people that the season was over, and bored them with the reasons why I thought so. The trees thought otherwise.

We had a run of about 20 gallons of very clear sap. As I went from tree to tree, I kept thinking, “OK, this is an anomaly… the rest will be empty. But one after the next bucket was half full with sweet clear sap. Instead of shutting down the operation, we boiled lots more, and stored enough in the barrel for another boiling session tomorrow.

On my trip to town today, I bought us a bag of potato chips to celebrate the end of the season. Well, the season didn’t end, but we’re eating the potato chips anyway.

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