Late March was maple-syrup time. Jim
tapped only fifty trees because it was expensive buying the equipment -
the buckets, spiles, and cans - for sap gathering. He borrowed two
cast-iron sugar kettles from Dan MacDonald, who had made enough syrup the
year before to last two years. Janet was fascinated by the operation. The
kettles swung on a pole hung between two trees. A rough shelter made
mostly of strips of bark off fallen timber protected them, and wood was
piled within reach. The sap was gathered twice a day, and the kettles were
kept boiling all day, sometimes all night. A piece of fat bacon rubbed
around the rim of the kettles acted magically to keep them from boiling
over. Syrup was the main product, but often it was boiled down into sugar,
which was considered a great treat by everyone.
The time Jim and Janet spent
gathering maple syrup seemed like a holiday after the confinement of
winter. There were birds about, enjoying the first warmth of spring;
crows, jays, and woodpeckers broke the long winter silence of the woods.
There were tracks in the snow made by the raccoons and squirrels and the
groundhogs looking for their shadows. The snow went down rapidly. In the
field it was almost gone when the syrup season ended. The creek flooded
and covered the driveway, cutting off the way to the road.
"I don't recall Mr. Murdoch
mentioning this when he showed us the farm." Janet was gazing across the
water. "Being such a kind man I suppose he didn't want to discourage us."
"We'll just build the lane higher."
Jim was not too concerned. "Andrew made the place look good, but we can't
complain. It's turned out well. And Dan agrees with him that our grove of
cherry will make us a small fortune if we wait a few years."
"That's it with everything, wait a
few years. It seems we will have to wait many years. It's a slow business
clearing a farm, but that does not seem to matter. I'm happy." Janet
glanced coquettishly at Jim. "Are you happy, my husband?"
His reply was more serious than her
question had been. "I've never been anything else since I got you for a
wife. That is behind everything; it gives meaning to all I do."
She looked at him with suspicion.
The language was a little flowery for Jim. When she saw that he meant it,
she put her arms around him.
"My poor innocent boy, I should be
glad you're so easily satisfied."