Driving home after ten hours away from the farm I switch off the administrative and dispatcher side of my brain and start thinking about the next seven or eight hours of work on the farm. Sap from the maple trees around the house has taken occupancy in every barrel, bucket, gallon jug, glass jar and other storage container available to me save for the bath tub. If we don't boil, we will be wasting precious sap as it dribbles down the sides of the trees.
I arrive at the house to find that Little Man and his father have gotten the fire started and the contents of our wash tub evaporator are just about to a boil. We visit with my cousin over steam rising from the clear liquid. After a short time the color deepens and the air takes on a sweet smell just as Little Man's mood turns sour. Time to go inside, make dinner and begin our evening ritual of bath, brush teeth, story and bed while his father tends to the boil.
At 9:00 p.m. I take the reins of the boiling operation as Little man's father has to get cleaned up and get some sleep so he can leave before sun up for his off farm job. The evening is cold; winter still has its claws in this night. The clouds let forth small bursts of flurries every now and again and I am sitting on an overturned plastic bucket in mud at least two inches deep, in front of a roaring wood stove and vat of sweet liquid.
Around 11:30 p.m. the sap has finally come to and stays at the perfect boil. Every last joint in my body aches from carting wood across the lawn to the wood stove and chopping it by hand. My feet are soaked through to the bone as I realize I am still wearing the clothes that I wore to my off farm job - certainly not ones made for playing in the mud. The makeshift door to my boiling rig is burning through and I have scalded my hands too many times to count as I draw off syrup by lantern light. Shortly before 1:00 a.m. I head inside with my 'blackstrap' maple syrup, steam rolling off the hot bucket melting any snow flakes that dare come near.
As I pass through the garage (aka rabbit shed), I notice a doe carrying hay in her mouth (a tell-tale sign of ensuing delivery). She is early and I am out of nest boxes. Syrup bucket placed inside and out of reach of furry critters, I start to work crafting a nest box out of scrap wood in the garage. Thankfully the garage is plenty far from Little man's crib lest I wake him during the wee hours of this morning. Nest box in place, I retreat inside.
Clothes reeking of campfire smoke, maple syrup and mud are discarded directly into the washing machine. A quick shower for the purpose of warming the bones and joints and a couple of over-the-counter pain relievers to ensure this beaten body can get moving in the morning. Exhausted, I fall into bed, the cold seeping out through my pores drives the cats off the bed. My last thoughts - in less than five hours I am actually looking forward to starting all over again.