Of maple syrup and apocalypse chickens

I bake. Not quite as often as I’d like to or should, but I bake, and one thing that most baking requires is sugar. Living as I do in the Land o’ Sugarbeets, it’s usually far cheaper to get white refined beet sugar than cane sugar. But sugar takes many forms, and throughout the world and history, we’ve found ways of getting it.

It used to be that you couldn’t go anywhere in the Northeast or Midwest USA in February and March and NOT see buckets hung on the side of trees, collecting sap to be boiled down into syrup. Tapping ones own trees has fallen away from common knowledge though, and it makes me a little sad to look out my window, across the snowy yard, and count the GALLONS of maple syrup that could be derived from just the trees of this little subdivision.

Contrary to what many believe, you don’t need a Sugar Maple tree to make syrup. Sugar Maples are prized because they have the highest percentage of sugar in their sap, thus producing more syrup with less boiling, but ANY maple tree can be tapped. Around here, you’d be hard pressed to find a sugar type, but Silver Maples are everywhere.

Last year, I decided to try it myself, and tapped the massive maple tree in the backyard, as well as a couple at my grandmothers house. This is the tree in my yard, which I tapped last week in the warm weather. For perspective, that’s a 5 gallon bucket I’ve hung on the tap.

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Last year, from the 4 taps I ended up with about 3/4 of a gallon of syrup, but I was only taking sap for a week. I could have started sooner, and gone later, as I am this year. This cold snap has stopped the sap flow, but as soon as this tap starts again, I’ll tap the other trees, and put another into this one.

Chickens in a yard eating

Chickens, are not a source of sugar. The breeds shown here are: A Black Australorp (Bad Mama Jamma), Golden Polish (David and Bowie), White Cubalayas (no names yet), and Exchequer Leghorns (Alcatraz, Sing Sing, and one un-named).

These are the Apocalypse Chickens. When civilisation crumbles, and the yuppies are milling about unable to feed their families, I’ll have eggs each morning. Before that point I will need to make sure I have suitable roosters (The one Golden Polish in profile above is a cock, but GP are an ornamental breed). I’d like to increase the flock a bit to 8 hens or so, a mix of Australorp, Exchequer Leghorns, and some Chantecler. I’d REALLY like some Scots Dumpy Chickens, but I seriously doubt I could find any reasonably in the USA. It’s not one of the breeds available from Sandhill Preservation where I got these birds last year.

 

But snow is about to fly here. I enjoy winter, but I’m anxious for the maple to flow, and my chickens to enjoy the outdoors and be able to forage again.

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