A few years ago, my husband and I were living in our native California and suffering the sad realization that we could not afford to raise a family there. It is beautiful and I love it, but it comes with a pretty steep price tag. I was also transitioning to doing music full time, and I knew the handful of coffee shops and venues in town could not support or maintain any sort of music career. So we began to search out of state for a new place to call home.
I had three criteria for wherever we moved: 1) It had to be more affordable than California (not hard), 2) it had to have some sort of music scene/market, and 3) it had to be near people we knew.
With family in Chattanooga, Nashville was on top of our list. I also had a very good friend living in Nashville at the time. We grew up together, graduated high school together, and had been very close throughout. Every time I told Jina what I was looking for in a city, she suggested Nashville. Specifically, she recommended East Nashville as a flourishing community of artists that she thought would be a perfect fit.
So when we moved here in 2008, she was the ONLY friend I had in town. Six years later, we not only live in the same city, or even the same neighborhood– but I can see her house from mine. I love how our lives have paralleled–Jina also married a farmer (Andrew), and he and Josh like to compare notes about what they are growing and what to turn it into.
This morning, Andrew invited us over to watch him gather the sap from the maple trees and to see how he turns it into syrup. Jina and Andrew also recently had a baby who we had not yet met, so when they called me this morning to come over we didn’t hesitate! Josh even got to go. It was so great.
The best time to collect sap is after a night freeze. This is how much had collected in the bucket over night.
I forgot that a spile was called a spile, and I kept referring it to “that Hunger Games tool,” which of course infuriated and annoyed Josh. By the way…it was COLD:
After checking all of the buckets hanging on the trees, Andrew poured the syrup from a couple of the different taps into a larger bucket.
Next, he measured the sugar content. He let Josh and the girls give it a try too:
It takes 43 pints of sap to make ONE pint of syrup. Instead of boiling all of that sap into syrup (which would take forever and use a lot of energy), Andrew freezes it first, and the sugary stuff melts first leaving a block of ice behind. Andrew then takes the melted portion of sap with the higher sugar content and boils that down.
Andrew had already started processing a bunch of sap from earlier, so we got to sample some of that goodness. There were varying flavors depending on the type of maple tree, what method he used, and what kind of container was used for storage and/or cooking.
After a thorough taste-test, the general consensus was that all of the syrup was delicious! One jar tasted exactly like carmel corn.
This was such a great “field trip” and we all learned so much. Josh got enough information to begin tapping our own maple, which we plan to do. Sera was so fascinated that she decided to write an article about it for the Music City News. I was happy to visit my dear friend and meet her sweet baby girl! On our way out, we took a picture of our house from their backyard. It is so fun to live so close to my dear friend, and to share a bit of “California” history right across the road.
Thanks, Jina and Andrew! We can’t wait to make our own Maple syrup!