St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Maple Syruping

With the traditional tapping of maples only a few weeks away, it is time to get in the mood!  Feb 27th, 7 pm, Luck Museum is our annual Polk Co syruping kickoff meeting.  Local producers, local enthusiasts, beginners, and those who are just wondering about it all get together to find out what is happening in syruping this year.  

Steve Anderson from Anderson Maple of Cumberland will tell us what is new.  Russ Hanson, the River Road Rambler himself, will tell us what is old.  Beginning syruping taught. FREE, door prizes and refreshments.  Guaranteed to put you in a spring mood!

My family claims an broken line of syrupers in North America starting when GGGGGGG grandpa John Beebe's family came to New London Connecticut, and learned how to do it from the Native Americans in 1650! 

1960s brother Byron feeding the fire with slabs from our sawmill

Great Grandpa Charles Hanson settled in Maple Grove Township, Barron County WI in the 1870s.  His Yankee wife, Anna Beebe, came from NY and her ancestors from CT and through them we trace the syruping history of the family to the 1600s.  We still have distant cousins in western NY who syrup (for 200 years there).  I think this is Great Uncle George on the right and neighbor Malone left about 100 years ago.  

Margo hangs buckets 10 years ago.  

Administrator Russ guides son Scott in sap filtering.  10 years ago. 

Scott labels the syrup -- about 1985.  

Brother Everett's orginal cooker--now replaced with a new one in a cooking shed.  Neighbor Jana has the old one setup at her place 5 years ago at the end of the season--already green!

Great great grandpa Lathrop Watson Beebe, wife Abigail and children came from Cattaraugus County, Western NY, to Wisconsin after his service in the Civil war (about 1864) and passed his maple syrup making skills to his new son-in-law, Charles Hanson a Swedish immigrant.
Maple syruping was important for the family because it provided the sweetening used for cooking.  White sugar was unavailable or extremely expensive, and maple sugar was a home made substitute that just took your labor.   The family sold the surplus as a way to make a little money in the spring.  

350 years later, the tradition continues with the Hanson's champing at the bit to hit the woods and begin maple season again.  We start in the dread of winter, and end with the early flowers of spring.  The lake opens, the birds return, the snow melt with all of its wonderful muddiness, are all first hand experiences to the maple syruper.  On the farm, the end of the season started the long stretch of the farm crop planting through harvest.  A sweet interlude between winter and summer.