Students at The Cobb School may have grown tired of wind-whipped recesses, but their exasperation was put into perspective February 11 when they discovered the efforts of maple sugarers during winter.
Ron Kasulaitis, retired Simsbury firefighter and owner of Hidden Pond Sugarhouse, visited The Cobb School for the fifth year in a row to tap Cobb’s maple trees and present lessons on sugaring. Kasulaitis spoke with children as young as three and braved the cold, as he does every day, to demonstrate tree tapping. The children watched with curiosity as Kasulaitis drilled holes, plugged spouts, and secured buckets. They received a firsthand lesson on what it means to work outdoors in bitter weather and the labors of love maple sugaring demands.
Kasulaitis explained to the students how to collect the sap either through taps and buckets or tubing. He also discussed the four grades of syrup, dependent on the when the sap is taken from the tree. Earlier sap results in sweeter syrup. Kasulaitis surprised the students when he said it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. The days need to be above freezing for the sap to flow, and a bucket can fill with sap in four hours on a good day.
The students asked many questions about maple trees and sugaring. For example, one student asked, “Can you make maple syrup from any maple tree?” And Kasulaitis answered, “It has to be a sugar maple, which only grows in the north central and eastern parts of the United States and eastern Canada.”
Maple sugaring is hard work. It requires tapping trees, watching the weather, stoking fires, boiling and re-boiling sap, and bottling. While Kasulaitis and sugarers like him wait for the magic temperature and the syrup to finally run, most children continue to unconsciously pour syrup onto their pancakes. Cobb’s students are less likely waste this jewel. They now understand the process and appreciate the work.