Stories from the journey of fatherhood & brotherhood

Making Maple Syrup

creation holy spirit work Mar 05, 2021

About a month ago, Owen told us he wanted to make maple syrup. The youngest of our soon-to-be eleven-year-old twin boys, he has always had a mind for learning how things work, and had recently read a book in which the characters had tried making it. 

Pure maple syrup is delicious. It is all natural. Making it is a simple process. And unlike honey, its creation doesn’t leave you at risk of being stung. This was enough for me to say yes when my son asked. I’ve always thought it would be cool to try, so he didn’t have to push hard. 

We first started by preparing. He watched a free e-course from our local library, while I ordered taps and tubing from Amazon. 

A few days later, we went outside to tap the trees. This involved drilling holes into our rather large, old silver maples and our one red maple. (Did you know that you can make syrup from any species of maple, not just sugar maples?)

Unfortunately, we discovered fairly quickly that I had drilled the holes slightly too big. The “spiles” or taps I had purchased fit a bit too loosely, which meant the trees were leaking sap around the taps, rather than through them. So we decided it was worth the risk and redrilled new holes in the trees. 

And then collection began! My son Owen would excitedly go out before and after school and collect the sap. It was amazing to see how much could come out of a tree in just a few hours. We started running out of storage space quickly, and had to borrow some stock pots from our friends. 

These drips of sap have been called the very first murmurings of spring, and it definitely gave us a jolt of excitement and hope!

After a week or so we had run out of space, and it was time to boil the sap down. I bought one of those stainless kitchen trays that you see at buffets and cut up an old metal filing cabinet and turned it into a wood-burning sap evaporator. It was a bit hillbilly, but definitely worked! 

After just a day, we had boiled down 25 or so gallons of sap into less than one gallon of pre-syrup, ready to finish on our stove top indoors where I could keep an eye on it. To make syrup, you have to be careful to boil it until it hits 7 degrees above water’s boiling point, which can happen fairly quickly. Our antique candy thermometer was very helpful for this.

Interestingly, after it is syrup, you have to filter it. During the process, the minerals in sap crystalize and make “sugar sands” that can be filtered out, so as to maintain a clear, clean, nice looking syrup. While not completely necessary, we decided to filter it, pouring through fabric filters, and into our jars. 

When it was done, we had well over a quart of maple syrup to put on pancakes, coffee, and anything else that we want! We can even pour it over the snow and make maple candy! My son had a blast, and is super proud of our harvest. One thing is for sure: we will do this again next year, and start earlier!

Making maple syrup is a lot like living in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

First, notice that I didn’t “make” the Holy Spirit, just as I didn’t make the sap. I don’t control him, but he is there. In fact, just as the sap has been there for decades, the Holy Spirit has been present to me for decades, whether I have been aware of him or not. 

I find that if I am not checking in with him regularly, I am missing out on the life-juice that he has to offer me. It is good to have multiple places in which I “tap” him, or position myself to hear him. This includes time reading scripture and other books, journaling, prayer, and real conversations with others who are also in tune with him. And sometimes I have to change the size or position of those holes to get a better flow.

I find that I often need to process the “data” that I get from him, finding themes and distilling it down. It is not uncommon that he has many things to say to me, but often there are general themes throughout different seasons of life in which he is counseling me through particular situations or circumstances. While the taste of each drop is sweet, when I can look at the bigger picture and distill it down I find that an even sweeter gift has been offered to me. 

I also find that I can mistake my own inner thoughts as his, or just as bad, I can interpret the whispering contamination of the enemy as truth. I have to filter my thoughts and what I think I am hearing through the fabric of friends and scripture. And, lastly, it is most glorifying to God when I am intentional to enjoy his presence and notice the gifts he is giving me.

How are you experiencing the Holy Spirit nurturing you along your journey? Take some time today to sit back and collect, boil down, filter, and enjoy what he has been and is offering you. I can promise you one thing: in the end, it will be delicious.

Cody Buriff 
Restoration Project Chief of Resource Initiatives

And this...because you can't not include comparisons about All-Pro Tight Ends and syrup: 

"“It's like a saying my mom used to say, “It must be maple syrup because butter don't drizzle like that.” You don't got much time to react and syrup drizzles... You've gotta make that play. And a stick of butter, it's a block, you've gotta put it in the microwave, melt it, that just takes too long. You've gotta make that play right away, baby, and that's why I'm like the maple syrup. That's why she always used to say that, 'cause I'm quick with it. I just drizzle all over the place.”

-Rob Gronkowski



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