Sap – Life’s Great Teacher

Maybe this isn’t totally true, but, everything I ever learned about life, I learned at the Maple Sugar House.

Let’s start with planning. We would probably all agree that planning is essential to a successful day. There is a near-endless systems of plans that have to come together right in order to make a good bottle of maple syrup. There’s the tap and bucket inventory, as well as the required tools to utilize them. The sugar house itself has all kinds of complicated components that have to be well maintained. And, if we forget to order the jugs, then, we have a lot of syrup with no home.

My father taught me that you have to wear the right clothing for the job – and what a great lesson this is for students! Last week, when we put the taps out, the first day was 29 degrees with over 3′ of snow. Then, upon our third or fourth collection a week later, it was nearing 60 degrees and the snow was virtually gone.

Good leaders know not only how to manage their time well, but also how to get the most out of every hour. During the Maple Season, as we affectionately call it, all participants (teachers and students) have to figure out the great “both/and” of life. It is not homework “or” sap boiling, it is actually both. Students that learn this early in life, are God’s Kingdom movers.

Collecting sap is one of those jobs that can drag on and on, wearing down the spirits of even the most hearty and positive kids. But, with a disciplined heart and mind, sap collecting can be an energizing, almost competitive experience. How fast can we get all the sap in this 2 acre woodlot? How many of these buckets can I get? How can I best help my team? If I get those buckets in the far corner…

Everyone likes a great story, such as “Unbroken” where the hero has to have incredible singular vision and perseverance. Well, on a much smaller scale than a raft adrift in the Pacific, making good maple syrup requires unyielding perseverance towards excellence. As mentioned, there’s the collectors – bucket after bucket, lot after lot, regardless of day, weather, mood and other competitors. There is also the boiling process, which requires attentive focus to keeping the fire to a raging fury, for 3,4,5, 6 and more hours. Let us not forget that somewhere in the year, somebody prepared and provided the 5 or 6 cords of wood needed for the Maple Season.

Risk is good, done well. One of the many personal and introspective questions we put on the Semester Portfolio is “Risk Taking Behavior”, an attribute we aim to teach at JRHS. The Maple Sugar Operation offers copious opportunity, for students to step out and take worthwhile risks towards a beautiful and sweet end. To the extent that this experience is transferable to life’s next demand of risk, we praise God.

Many years ago, when this project began (we think of Nathan Reynolds and Andy Botts, two fine men of God) we named our syrup, “God’s Secret Delight”. Never could we have imagined how inspired that little mantra is. If nothing else, the JRHS Maple Project brings the sugarmaker just a little bit closer to a more complete understanding of how wonderful, awe-some and amazing is the Creator, and His Creation.

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