Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I Think That I Shall Never See a Poem As Lovely As a Tree

It’s been a cold, windy, rainy winter here on the Oregon Coast. There have been more windy days this year than I ever remember during my past twenty years here.

Several members of our reading family live in cold East Coast climates. Both Beth and Mike S have been posting photos of snow on their blogs. I’ve seen some photos from Moosehead as well. Sometimes I miss the snow; that is until I take a white knuckle drive over the pass.

One thing I do miss about the colder winter climate on the East Coast is the sap flow. It’s coming up to that time when the nights are frozen and the days will be warmer. This is the time the sap starts flowing in the sugar maple trees.

We had a sugar maple in the back yard of the house I grew up in. Occasionally a branch would be damaged and after a frozen night there would be a sugary sweet icicle awaiting me on my morning walk to school.

I recall one year my brother put a 35 gallon drum under one such break. It wasn’t long before it was filled to the brim. We would drink the maple water right out of the barrel. It wasn’t so sweet like we were drinking corn syrup. It was more like very fresh water with a maple sweet hint.

Making maple syrup isn’t as easy as one might think. It takes quite a long time to reduce the sap to syrup. As the syrup starts to thicken you need to back off the heat so as not to caramelize or burn it.

I do miss visiting the colder climates and seeing taps and buckets in a grove of maples. Trees are so cool. They give us wood the build and heat with and pulp into paper. They give us nuts and fruits. They give us resin and sap. It’s hard to think of what it would be like if we didn’t have these gifts from our trees.

When I first moved here I planted fourteen Black Birch trees. Today only two survive and are doing well. When I lived back East I would snap off Black Birch branches and boil them until the water turned a dark red. The tea like brew that was made tasted like birch beer. Many people have no idea what that is out here, so it is best described as mint-like root beer.

My trees are now big enough for a limited annual twig harvest. I am glad I had the good sense to plant these trees so long ago.


Blogger Beth said...

Love the taste of maple syrup mixed with snow! (Clean snow...)
Speaking of which, we are getting more snow today. I've had enough.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

You've reminded me of something I haven't made for ages--sassafras tea. I haven't had birch beer for ages either.

We haven't had any snow to speak of this year. Just a couple nuisance snows of two inches or so. Right now roads a jammed and people are colliding all over the place due to icing. I'd rather have ten inches of snow or plain old rain, thank you very much.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Mike S said...

Sunny today, but back to the snow again tonight. I'm with Beth. We even used to take fresh sap and mix it with snow for a cheap version of a natural snow cone. Every year here the state holds what's known as Maple Sunday where many syrup operations open to visitors for the day to give all a chance to experience the pleasure of fresh sap, syrup, candy, and 'snow cones' with all natural ingredients. No charge, loads of pies, cakes, bread, rolls, and other goodies for free as well at most places.
Love birch beer.

1:58 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

You three make me miss the East Coast.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Let me give you a reason to be grateful for not being on this part of the East Coast: Icy Mess The section of highway that was closed for hours is one of the busiest on the East Coast, and in the evening rush hour handles around 50,000 cars--that's well over the entire population of Clatsop County stuck going nowhere. I heard of some people taking 8 hours to get home when their normal commute is about 1.5 hours. In the middle of the night it would be about 45 minutes.

1:12 AM  

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