Doug Craven Sugaring Moon

Sugaring Moon

Doug Craven, LTBB Natural Resources Director, shares his family’s tradition of starting spring with the sugaring moon.

Spring is here–Ziisbaakdoke-giizis (Sugaring Moon) is March to the Odawa. My family has been making maple syrup for years on my Grandfather’s property just north of Harbor Springs, and it is now my four boys and I who carry on the tradition. We run a family sugar bush and tap about 30-40 trees.

Maple sap needs the right spring conditions in order to get the sap flowing–cold enough at night to freeze but not too cold (between 25 and 32 degrees is ideal), and warmer during the day with some nice sunshine (mid 40’s is ideal). We tap each tree with an antique, no-power hand drill, drive in an aluminum spiel, and hang galvanized pails to collect the sap. We tap many of the same trees year after year and can tell the difference in snow pack based on how high or low the healed-over tap mark from the previous year is.

When the sap is running well, the sap pails must be collected daily. We gather the sap in five gallon buckets and store it in other buckets or ten gallon milk cans until adding it to the pan for boiling. It takes around 40-50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. We usually make 8-14 gallons of syrup a year, which is usually around 3-4 batches. It can be a little bit of work but the payoff is great–pure maple syrup. I am sure there is no better way to start the spring than by getting out in the woods and being part of such a valued tradition.


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