Family traditions are so important! My husband’s family has a wonderful tradition that they have been passing on from generation to generation. My sons have been fortunate enough to be able to participate in this family tradition as well.
Our house is located on a couple of acres which used to be the family farm where my husband’s grandfather grew up. We are blessed to be able to live on this land along with my husband’s grandparents, his parents, and the families of a brother, an uncle, and a cousin. Because we live so close by, we’ve been able to fully experience the tradition of making maple syrup each year as it takes place.
As I said, Grandpa grew up right here where my boys are also growing up. He fondly remembers watching his own dad as he made maple syrup year after year. Great grandpa’s sugar shanty and syrup equipment weren’t quite as high tech as are Grandpa’s but otherwise, the process is pretty much the same.
How to Tap Maple Trees
First, the trees need to be tapped. This is done in the late winter/early spring when the nights are cold but the days are warmer. In Michigan, that is often in late February or early March but it varies from year to year. Trees need to be tapped when the sap is running.
To tap a tree, first, you use a drill bit to put a small hole in the maple tree. Next, a spile is inserted into the hole you just created. Then, the bucket is hung below the hole and a lid is put on the bucket to try to keep as much debris out of the collected sap as possible.
Next, the sap needs to be gathered. In our family, the men (and sometimes us women) all gather together and jump on a wagon which is pulled by a tractor. Grandpa drives the tractor around the perimeter of his property and the men all jump off at appropriate times to empty sap buckets into a large container. We often tap 120 trees so this is quite a process!
Once the buckets have all been emptied, Grandpa drives the tractor back to the sugar barn to be pumped into his evaporator. The sap is then boiled until it becomes syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!
Now that Grandpa is 89 years old, he’s having a harder time doing the syrup every year. We didn’t want to let this family tradition die, however, so this year our boys are going to try their hand at making maple syrup themselves.
We were fortunate enough to receive a complimentary Maple Syrup Starter Kit for Teachers from Tap My Trees. The kit was free and I was compensated for my time, but I promise I’m sharing my honest opinion with you.
I was really surprised when this kit showed up at my door. The materials are top notch! And everything you need to tap a tree is included from the instructions to the drill bit to the bucket to the spile. It’s all there.
This kit also includes cheesecloth, a filter, a candy thermometer, and an empty maple syrup bottle for when you’re ready to make the syrup. The only things you need to supply are a pan, a fire, and some muscles!
By the way, this is the perfect time of year to collect your equipment and identify the maple trees in your yard. It’s best to mark the trees before they lose their leaves… unless you’re good at identifying bark.
Making maple syrup has been an amazing experience for our boys. These types of family traditions are excellent things to maintain in our homeschools. There are so many benefits to observing family traditions with our children.
Here are 5 Benefits of Keeping Family Traditions Alive in Your Homeschool:
1 – Time Spent with Grandparents
Never underestimate the importance of your kids spending time with their grandparents. There are amazing family bonds that are formed with kids are able to spend a good amount of time with the older generations.
2 – Learning Valuable Skills
Technology brings a lot of benefits to our lives. It is also causing us to lose some important traditional skills that people of previous generations took for granted. Things such as reading a map versus using a GPS. Or looking up information rather than Googling the answer. And when is the last time you saw someone make lace? Or tasted a pie which has a crust made from scratch? Our parents and grandparents have so many amazing skills that they are HAPPY to teach to our kids if we only ask.
3 – Living History
Keeping family traditions is a great way to make history more memorable for your kids. Talk to them about why people used to do things the way they did. Discuss how methods have changed over the years. When did people start this particular practice? What else was going on around the world at the time? Experiencing these stories about people are what makes history come alive for our kids!
4 – A Sense of Belonging
Participating in family traditions is also a great way to show your kids their place in the world. Talk to them about your family history. Show them photos of people and places that were important to their ancestors. Help your kids to see where they fit in the grand scheme of things.
5 – Pass on Values
While grandparents and great-grandparents are spending time with our kids, it’s natural for them to pass on their values at the same time. They usually have a different perspective since they are at a different place in their lives – and the wisdom they can impart to our kids is invaluable!
I can honestly say that our lives would not be the same without some of the family traditions that we’ve been able to maintain with our boys. Learning things from books is important. But learning things from grandparents and great-grandparents is priceless!
If you’d also like to try your hand at making maple syrup with your kids, I highly recommend you check out the wonderful resources at Tap My Trees such as their Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets if you’re interested tapping more than one tree! Many of these items are also available on Amazon so please check them out.
Question: What family traditions have you been intentional about passing down to your kids? Have you seen any other benefits that you could share with us? Please leave a comment below!