“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We’re not sure if Francis Schellinger ever read any Emerson, chances are that he did since he was an avid reader with a wide ranging interest. But what we do know is that Francis knew how to have fun – to play! He was known for appreciating the “event of it all”. In today’s business parlance it would be said his activities were “vertically integrated.”.
Francis would only purchase items that he felt could be grown, raised, gathered or made. A pork chop would not be purchased, but rather a runt feeder pig would be spared an early fate, purchased for a pittance, and brought to the farm on the shores of Spunk Brook to live a rather long and happy life, having only one bad day.
Another annual event was the late winter ritual of tapping the trees and taking what nature gave us (sometimes depending upon the weather) which in these parts of North America means Maple Syrup! The surgaring season can happen anytime from late February through the end of April, even going into the first week of May when we find snow that needs to be shoveled on the morning of many High School Proms. But by then, though the sap still flows, we are dead tired or the firewood has run out – or both.
It is a time of transition. The battle between winter and spring begins to swing in springs favor with the days longer, the ice along Spunk Brook breaking up, the northern and walleye beginning to run up the creek from Upper Spunk and the tom turkeys beginning to gobble. It is during this time that we throw open the doors, ready the equipment, tap the trees and get ready to make syrup.
Sugaring involves a ridiculous amount of work and time from readying firewood to getting the equipment ready, collecting the sap from the trees, cooking the sap down, and eventually bottling the finished product.
At its core, making Maple Syrup is possibly one of the simplest processes out there. One simply boils off water until what was a faintly sweet tasting water becomes an amazing distillation for everything from pancakes to ice cream to marinades.
But here is the secret. Like so many other of the activities Francis was known for, its what happens in the margins of making Maple Syrup. It’s what happens when the sap isn’t running or while you’re watching the sap boil. This is where the fun happens.
Since adults need help from kids to make this fun happen, you usually want to make sure they are present. Though Francis would draw out the child in all of us with his natural energy and passion. Along with all the work, every sugaring season would be filled with fort building in the woods, investigations along and sometimes IN the creek, busting off the ice ledges, watching the fish, and snowshoeing through the woods. And there is ALWAYS a wiener roast (hot dogs) over an open fire that appears out of nowhere. And the wieners must be roasted on a slender branch from a nearby Ash sapling.
Well, after 40 years of making fun and memories, the old evaporator is barely functional. To support our goal of bringing new and succeeding generations to the shores of Spunk Brook to enjoy this ritual of spring we need a new evaporator, or Cooker as we call it. We’ll welcome you to the Sugar Bush no matter what – but we’d like to be able to show you a new cooker when you come.
If you are able to help, please support this effort with a gift towards the purchase of a new evaporator. When we are able to make the purchase it will go right next to the new Sugar Shack – a timber frame structure nearing completion down in the Sugar Bush and truly on the shores of Spunk Brook. Donations can be made electronically here or mailed to Chris Schellinger at 31556 181st Ave, Avon, MN 56310.
Thank you for your interest, your generosity and we hope to see you in the spring!