My worn old hand-me-down rain boots crunched through the melting ice as I made my way to the barn for farm chores. Thin strands of my hair, wet from a shower, were turned icy from the early morning chill. Andy’s mentor group presented the llamas and chickens with the beginning of a bright new day. After providing them with food and water, we hurried back to the Homestead, proudly carrying a carton and a half of fresh eggs, still warm from a chicken’s butt.
After a quick breakfast and not particularly interesting community meeting, we divided into mentor groups for our first session of community work. Andy’s group quickly emptied all of the plump blue bags dangling from surrounding maple trees into our heavy buckets and emptied the sweet, icy sap into giant black barrels. Some of us then went in search of big sticks for a fire, while others scooped snow from dirty, icy flattish snow banks into our buckets, which we emptied into the container that is used to boil the syrup. We scrubbed it around until most of the dirt was absorbed into the snow, which quickly turned a shade of dark brown.
Next, we began to empty the giant barrels of sap into the large metal container that boiled them, one small bucket at a time. Emptying the buckets was pretty scary because you had to get really close to the sizzling hot boiler, put your head and arms into the steam, and the drops of sap that splashed out of the bucket hissed and disappeared in an instant. Soon, the container was nearly overflowing and boiling violently. White strands of bubbles snaked their way across the surface, almost completely concealed by the white cloud of steam rising quickly from the water and snaking into the sky, making us back away, cough, and curse white rabbits. Boiling the sap into syrup was a fun experience that I am glad I got to participate in.