P71231It was probably one of the best television shows for children back then, and probably still is. Everyone of my generation in American remembers Sesame Street. We all identified with it, even if our neighborhood did not look like Sesame Street, or lacked the variety of neighbors. Sesame Street sometimes took us on television field trips to other neighborhoods. Some were more familiar. Those that were more foreign were presented within a compelling and inviting context that got us interested in how other children lived within their respective societies.

Some kids lived in big cities and rode on buses. Others lived in suburban areas with big gardens. Some lived on farms with hens and cows. There were even kids who lived near a forest surrounded by big tall evergreen trees. The trees were probably the firs, spruces and hemlocks of New Hampshire. I do not remember. I just knew I was fascinated with the trees.

I certainly did not need Sesame Street to show me how excellent my first silver maple was. It was my second tree, after my incense cedar. My mother thought of it as ‘her’ maple tree. Yeah, right. When it defoliated in autumn, I ‘raked’ the leaves by pairing them all up, and then pairing all the pairs into groups of four, and then pairing the groups of four into groups of eight, and so on, until there was only a single pile of leaves. When the tree was very small, it had only about sixty-four leaves, so this technique worked just fine. It was a bit more work by the second autumn. By the third autumn, I had learned how to use my little leaf rake.

During this time, I happened to learn something from Sesame Street that I had not previously known about maple trees. They make maple syrup! The kids who lived near the forest in New Hampshire went with their father out to where their maples were, to collect syrup. It was simple. The father gouged the bark, drilled a hole into the trunk, stuck a hooked device into the hole, and hung a bucket onto the hook to collect they syrup! I do not remember if that was the correct sequence of events; but how difficult could it be? The video was only a few minutes long, so I knew that it did not take long for the bucket to fill will with syrup that the kids poured over their pancakes at the end of the video.

What the video failed to explain adequately is that after the bucket was hung, it was left there overnight, and was retrieved the next day. To me, it looked like the kids got distracted and left, but then came right back a few seconds later. The video also failed to explain how involved the process of concentrating the sugar by boiling off the water from the sap. Again, to me, it looked like a pot of boiling sap was ready for pancakes a few seconds later. Like I said, the video was only a few minutes long.

Getting syrup from the maple tree was just too tempting. I took my little plastic beach pail and a small hatched for kindling and went out to get my own syrup. I smacked the trunk with the hatches and grabbed my pail to catch the sap that was supposed to come pouring out; but nothing happened. I smacked the tree again; but again, nothing happened. I gashed the trunk a few more times, in various spots around the trunk, but never got any syrup. Eventually, I got distracted with something else. I left my pail and the hatchet there next to the tree, believing that Sesame Street was wrong.P71231+


21 thoughts on “Sesame Street Was Wrong!

  1. Do you know? I did the same but to some other unsuspecting tree! I was highly disappointed that I couldn’t get syrup out of this very British tree (I think it was a silver birch…..). I left it there for days and this has become a family story! ‘Do you remember when Sophie….” yeah, yeah! Sesame Street must have influenced soooo many kids when we were growing up!

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  2. Yes we boiled the syrup when we lived on the farm. Really tasty and it must be collected. Also it could only be collected when the nights are cold and the days get warmer n the spring. This makes the sap move .

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    1. The bigleaf maple, which provided the leaf in the picture, happens to be a sugaring maple; sort of like the sugar maple of the west. It is native here, and even farther down the coast. Although it is possible to get syrup from them, particularly north of the Siskiyous, the season is too brief here. Winter is so mild, and spring arrives so suddenly, that right after the sap slows down, it starts to flow again, but only for a few days before the buds pop open. Mine tasted like it was flavored with freshly mown grass.


  3. Funny story – I guess it would have been to complicated to explain to the young audience the details of syrup production! Have you tried tapping any trees lately?

    Our blog is dedicated to back-yard and DIY maple sugaring, stop by and get inspired again!

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    1. I have not done it since 2009. A few years earlier, in about 2006, I got a bit of sap from a native bigleaf maple, and boiled it into syrup because some of my colleagues said it could not be done. The bigleaf maple is actually a sugaring maple of the Northwest. We just do not do it here because the season is SO brief. We do not get much of a winter. Now that the days are warm, the nights do not get very cold.


      1. Very cool, we haven’t tapped any bigleaf maples before. But the sap sure is flowing right now in New England with these warm temps. Let’s hope climate change slows down so we can enjoy it for years to come!

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