A Golden Experience

Home made maple syrup

Last year I spent several weeks tapping trees and boiling down the sap to make some maple syrup for our family. It was a great experience and I found it therapeutic. The time spent in the bush, collecting sap in pails and tending to the boiling was a way of living life at a relaxed pace while at the same time giving an opportunity for necessary physical workout. The reward was pure, simply delicious Ontario maple syrup – the envy of everywhere in the world.

Since we almost ran out of our supply of maple syrup this past year I decided I needed to make a few extra liters of the ‘liquid gold’. I also decided that tending a small burner and overseeing the slow boiling for hours on end needed to be done using a more efficient method.

I approached a neighbour who had a proper evaporator; something better than a few flat bottom pans and a flame; something actually designed to apply heat much more efficiently to the sap over a much larger surface and so greatly speeding up the evaporation process. The extra speed was much appreciated knowing that it takes about 40 liters of sap to make one liter of golden tasty maple syrup.

Entering into a venture with my neighbour was going to be my first serious venture with someone else since my ABI. At first blush things looked quite straight forward. I had done my own maple syrup making a few times of the years. I would be using a process that was well designed and fine tuned

Working with a neighbour with much more experience was helpful for learning some of the finer points of finishing the syrup, adding to the quality of the syrup and therefore enhancing the enjoyment of it.

This venture also required learning how to operate an evaporator, tending the fire, keeping an eye on the level of sap in the pan, and making sure to let the fire die down leaving while there was enough reserve so the syrup wouldn’t burn in the pan or run dry and cause serious problems.

Working along side another person, coordinating schedules, and working out the many details was more demanding than I had anticipated. The finer points of working with someone else was something I had not done for over two years, since quitting my administrative type of job.

My limitations as a result of my ABI affected various aspects while working on this project. While my physical limitations were at a minimum, the new environment, learning an new process with it’s finer points pushed me to my neurological limits.  The learning curve of using an evaporator, and when it’s not your own equipment is challenging because you end up being much more diligent making sure nothing goes  wrong, listening carefully for any pointers that are helpful and making sure to ask questions for clarification. This had the effect of raising my level of anxiety more than I had anticipated.

The ability to problem solve, which is a basic skill that most of us take for granted, is one of the most noticeable abilities that I lost with my ABI. I continue to struggle with various aspects of this part of my injury.

The loss of my ability to problem solve at a comfortable level resulted in me having many sleepless nights. That are two reasons that stand out. First of all when I need to find a solution it takes me much longer than pre-ABI to come up with a way to resolve an issue. Second, as long as a solution evades me my mind wouldn’t let it rest. I am not able to turn off my brain and put the issue aside till the next day. The slower processing along with the inability to stop the processing mid stream had the potential to derail my participation in the whole project. I did wonder at times if I was attempting too much.

I did mange to complete the project without backing out. Once I was past the learning process and had worked out the logistics of working with another person things gradually went better.

Not to discount the valuable learning experience, but in looking back on the project, I have come to the conclusion that it would be much simpler and better for my own well-being if I do the project on my own next year.



Author: Jasper Hoogendam

After 36 years as an educator my career ended due to a TBI. Renewable energy as part of 'walking lightly on this earth' has been and continues to be my interest since my teen years. Since early 2015 I have been learning to live with ABI (Acquire Brain Injury). I don't want to let my ABI limit the goals I set for myself. I'm living with a different brain, not a lesser brain. In sharing my day to day successes and struggles, I am better able to understand how my life had changed and begin to accept the change. In sharing my experiences I'm hearing from caregivers and fellow ABI's. I'm encouraged when my experiences are helping others understand some of the complexity of living with ABI.

12 thoughts on “A Golden Experience”

  1. Congratulations, you worked your way through the challenges and you have gold for your pancakes to boot. Perhaps by the time the jugs run empty you will be ready to again work with your neighbour. Hopefully your sap flow was better than mine?!


    1. There are trees that have been tapped for several generations and it doesn’t seem to affect the health of the trees. One tree had a 1/4 in hole that starts to heal over in about 6 to 8 weeks. The amazing thing is how much sap / water a tree draws up in a day when 1 or 2% of the circumference is tapped and the two taps can produce 20 litres (5 US gallons) in a day.


      1. We had a 6 inch snowfall and 3 degrees below freezing a couple days ago. With the sunny and worm weather the next day we had another great sap run – 180 litres of sap which is about 50 US gallons. Too much to handle in two day so I buried the 10 pails in a snow bank to keep it chilled – call it an early pioneer refrigerator.


    1. It can happen only in the spring when the weather fluctuates between freezing at night and thawing during the day. Once the buds open the sap loses it’s sugar content. Ideal is 5 C degrees below at night and 5 C degrees above during the day. This year the sap ran in our area from Feb 18 till April 9. There were at times 7 days in a row too cold and at other times no freezing at night so then the sap doesn’t run.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can completely relate to the brain continually working over a problem, desperately trying to resolve & not resting…almost akin to waiting for a washing machine to balance it’s load to finally spin… but the brain takes much longer. On my first ‘resolve’ the physio who was helping me at that time, was ecstatic…’woo hoo, you’ve problem solved’, it was a breakthrough. It still takes me alot of time & often with help, but I get there eventually.
    May you have many, many more breakthroughs, and lots of Maple Syrup. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many nuances and not so subtle challenges when dealing with a ‘hidden’ disability. We can track our own progress while others can be totally unaware of the changes. That’s why it’s good to keep family members up to speed.

      Liked by 1 person

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