We have always been a crew who loves basketball. Just like many other individuals around the country, we find March to be an exciting time of year because of the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments. We enjoy filling out the brackets and tuning into the games to watch "the madness." My Dad's bracket is usually pretty solid. There are a couple years where I think he could have been Sports Illustrated's $1,000,000 winner if he had actually submitted his bracket instead of just leaving it sitting on the kitchen table. Maybe then, with all that money, he wouldn't be so caught up in our own version of March Madness that we have going on annually here in Sharon Springs, NY. That being the Maple Madness that consumes our lives every March.
Why have we dubbed it a "madness" you may ask? First of all, the maple crop is one that depends completely on the weather. We are at the mercy of mother nature throughout the entire maple season. It can be quite unpredictable, but for the most part, the sap runs best when we have cold nights and warm days. By that, we mean it needs to get below 32 degrees at night, and then above freezing during the day. There are many other factors to consider, including sunshine, precipitation, and the wind. But when the sap runs, so do we. Yes, every one of us is off and running. On our farm, my Dad and husband (Tim Everett and Tim Korona) do most of the labor when it comes to the maple. But we all play our part and it does mean longer days for the whole family. Last Tuesday-Wednesday, during our first run of the season, was a classic example of the madness I'm talking about. Dad finally made it to bed around 1 a.m., after a long day of gathering and boiling sap, only to be up at 4:30 a.m. to take care of the cows before heading to Vermont to get parts for the evaporator. Meanwhile, I greeted my husband just after 3 a.m. as he finally called it a day and crawled into bed. A few short hours later, he was back up in time to drop our daughter off at school and then drive straight to each of our sugarbushes to collect the sap that had continued to run over night, thanks to the balmy 40 degree temperatures. And not a single one of us even batted an eye when the days seemingly ran together with no end. It means family meals in the sap house and making other accommodations and sacrifices, but it's a madness that works for our family. These late nights and early mornings are very common during sap season. Such is life in March.
Us ladies do our fair share of running during this madness too. Weekends in our sap house are spent serving pancakes, waffles, and maple products to visitors who enjoy the maple experience that we are able to offer. Last weekend we welcomed just under 800 people through our sap house doors, and it looks like we will do it again this weekend. Myself, my sister (Amy) and cousin (Katerina) all put on our running shoes for twelve weekends during the maple season and run from the griddle to the tables serving our guests who come for "Pancakes in the Saphouse". When there are hundreds of people coming to our little sugar shack in upstate NY, we have to be on our "A" game and ready to run, so that's exactly what we do. My mom mixes her secret ingredients together as my Aunt Linda does the cooking and Aunt Jean serves as hostess. And us three waitresses break a sweat doing our running from table to table providing top notch service and conversing with our customers. I'm not kidding when I say "break a sweat" either. With the evaporator going, it can certainly get pretty warm in there!
There will be many more of these long, busy days to come in our 2015 season. If the sap is flowing from those big, beautiful maple trees then someone has to collect it from the tanks in each of our woodlots before the tanks overflow. And as soon as it is collected, it needs to be boiled right away to make the best maple syrup possible. Even if that means we're working around the clock. So we head into each March knowing that there will be some long hours and all-nighters involved. It's a madness that we've embraced and have even come to love. There's an adrenaline rush that comes with this season that just can't be summed up in words, but I'd assume it is one that is similar to that felt by the teams in the NCAA tournament. Which, by the way, we still somehow find the time to watch. That may mean bringing an old TV to the saphouse and decorating it with some makeshift bunny ears on top to tune into a fuzzy CBS broadcast, but hey, it works! Maybe we didn't predict that UAB over Iowa State upset in the first round this year, or that the blower on the steamaway would quit in our first week of the season, but that's the madness that marks our March. And life wouldn't be the same without it!
Oh, and, GO UCONN!
My mom, Patti, doing what she does best! (Photo Courtesy of the Schenectady Gazette).