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Rite of Spring

When the nights are below freezing but the days are beginning to warm up, it's time to tap the sugar maples, explains Mayda Nathan '08, who sugars trees at Dartmouth's organic farm with Farm Manager Scott Stokoe. Despite an unusually warm winter, the sap in the farm's 30 or so sugar maples has started to run right on schedule. To make sure, Stokoe, with help from Nathan and Sawyer Broadley '08, performed his annual test on the tree outside his office. Nathan, who's taken the lead in the sugaring process since coming to Dartmouth, demonstrated the proper technique.

Mayda Nathan '08
Mayda Nathan '08 uses a hand drill to tap a sugar maple on Dartmouth's Organic Farm in March. Every spring students produce maple syrup from the College's trees. (Photo by Sarah Benelli)

Using a weathered hand drill, she bored a hole about 2 inches deep into the tree at a slight upward angle to encourage drainage. Then she and Broadley pounded a small metal spout into the hole and immediately clear sap began to flow. The last step was to hook a tin bucket below the spout and attach a cover to keep out debris.

"The rule of thumb is that you need about 40 pints of sap to produce one pint of syrup," explains Nathan. Stokoe and his apprentices will collect between 125 and 250 gallons of sap to produce between 3 and 6 gallons of syrup. A native Californian, Nathan says that she got involved with sugaring after answering a call for volunteers as a first-year student. "I was curious, so I offered to help. Suddenly I found myself running the whole process," she says with a laugh.

Scott Stokoe, Mayda nathan '08, and Sawyer Broadley '08
Organic Farm Manager Scott Stokoe (left) shows Mayda Nathan '08 (center) and Sawyer Broadley '08 how to gauge the correct depth of the hole for the spout. (Photo by Sarah Benelli)

Stokoe instructs his students in caring for the tree's drill wounds and imparts to them his reverence for the land and the living things that grow there. "These trees are living and breathing," he says. "They are our partners. They give us this gift and we need to care for them in return."

By GENEVIEVE HAAS

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Last Updated: 5/30/08