… to produce a single gallon of syrup.
I was watching an interview with the great documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, when he cited that fact.
Of course, that sent me down a three-hour rabbit hole of research about the syrup making process, or “sugaring” as it’s known in the industry.
The big takeaway?
Sugaring is insanely tedious work.
Check this out… in order to produce a single gallon of real maple syrup, you’ve got to…
Plant 80 maple trees (in a place where you freeze your pieces 6 months outta the year)
Wait 40 years (till your trees are old enough to produce sap)
Tap the trees (precisely at a time of year when the air temperature rises above freezing during the day and below freezing at night)
Fill buckets with the sap (a really motivated tree produces about a half-gallon of sap over 4-6 weeks of tapping)
Build a sugar shack (where you house your boilers… picture a giant wood stove with a big vat on top burning 217℉))
Pour 40 gallons of sap into the boiler (Don’t spill any)
Boil the sap (to evaporate the water)
Stand around (waiting for a gallon of syrup to drip out)
Bottle it (don’t friggin’ spill any!)Sell it (to goofy tourists at the market at a small profit)
Contemplate (what the hell you’re doing with your life)
Buy a newspaper (and pour through the want ads) (I would’ve said “go online” but anyone boiling sap for a living I guarantee still reads the paper)
Needless to say, no one is getting rich farming small batches of maple syrup.
Yet, remains a popular industry.
So, why do they do it?
Because it’s in their blood.
And frankly, parts of it sound downright romantic.
Like during the boiling process when all the neighbors dredge through the snow to come hang out in your sugar shack and drink apple cider by the warm glow of the boilers.
I imagine in that serene Norman Rockwell moment the arduous, profitless task of sugaring maple syrup all makes perfect sense.
Plus, think of all the books you’d have time to read while you sit waiting for the sap to vaporize? Busy as we stay these days, having idle time factored into your work feels like a long lost luxury.
Still, makes you glad to be a writer, doesn’t it?
Sure, there are days when producing a batch of decent words feels like boiling a vat of sap, but aside from that we have it pretty damn good.
We’re not at the mercy of geography, or weather conditions, and there’s practically zero overhead.
And we get paid to explore the things that catch our interest (see above :))
The danger in the convenience of our setup though is that, if we’re not careful, we can get a little too cozy.
Because just like boiling down a batch of primo maple sugar, writing a hundred words of great sales copy means vaporizing a whole lot more to get to the sweet ones.
Or spending 40 minutes writing an ad that might take a single minute to read.
So, get to tapping. I’ll see you at the sugar shack.
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