Monday, October 13, 2008

Old Mother Maple

I love the big, old trees on our property.

Arriving from upstate New York, they were the first impression of our new southern home. Where, from a canopy above, birdsong greeted the weary travelers and broad branches sheltered an old brick house safely beneath.
A large hickory stands guard in the back, reminding us with intermittent showers of nuts upon the tin roof, that he’s still standing strong.
In the front, a large hollow Sycamore and 2 Sugar Maples line the drive.
We are well surrounded by their interlacing, graceful branches.
Safely at home, on the top of our little hill.

Maple Sugaring Time
Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum

In early spring, we tap the Sugar Maples—the first step in a month-long process that yields the sweet amber syrup I remember from my grandfather’s farm in Vermont. Only several quarts, from just 3 trees scattered across the yard. But, a sweetness like no other, that tastes of strength and purity—and home.

The largest of the three, Mother Maple, reaches out toward our porch.
Her twisted trunk bears the scars of large fallen limbs. And the many slender branches grown in their place are crooked, giving her a lop-sided profile.
She is the character of an old, proud tree.
Gnarled, and with bark covered by lichens.
Greeting visitors to the hill, in her place by the front walk.

Mother Maple

Every spring, her arms welcome nesting birds.
Last year, a family of Summer Tanagers and this spring, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
On narrow leafy branches, with a gentle slope--such a welcome place to make a home.

female Summer Tanager at nest

Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest with tip of beak showing above

pair of baby hummingbirds in nest

This fall, her leaves have grown brown and withered. They litter the ground beneath her, barely changing to their golden tones.
I wonder if she will be with us much longer.
Or if there will be a gap in this landscape.

The hot, dry summer is hard on a more northern girl.


Mother Maple and our home

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35 comments:

Carolyn H said...

Nina, How funny! The day's count is now up to 3 for nature bloggers I read that today are posting maple tree/leaf photos--mine included. I guess it must be that time everywhere!!! As I told Cathy at the Quiet One (who also has a maple leaf photo) "great minds think alike." And I've only just starting reading the blogs I follow each day. Who knows what the count will be by the time I'm done?

Carolyn H.

nina said...

I would almost bet that Maple leaves are the first many learn to identify--the tees as well.
Like old friends, we keep in touch throughout the seasons.

Cicero Sings said...

No maples where we live ... the only trees that get tapped here are Birch ... for birch syrup ... not bad either. There are two farms up in the Quesnel area.

scienceguy288 said...

Early in the mornin' I first see the sun,
I say a little prayer for the world.
I hope all the children live a long, long time,
Yes, every little boy and little girl.
I hope they learn to laugh at the way
Some wicked old words do seem to change,
'Cause that's what life's all about: To arrange and rearrange and rearrange.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.

I heard the first yowl of a brand new baby
And I said a little prayer for the world.
I hope all the children live a long, long time,
Yes, every little boy and little girl.
I hope they learn to laugh at the way
Some precious old words do seem to change,
'Cause that's what life's all about: To arrange and rearrange and rearrange.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.

Early in the morning I'm a gathering the sap
And I say a little prayer for the maple.
Like big Mama Quad, on the northwest slope,
I'll protect her as long as I'm able.
She gives more sap year after year
Than any single other tree.
So bring on the pancakes! Here's to Mama Quad,
May she live for another century.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, may she live for another century.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, may she live for another century.

[ Pete Seeger Lyrics are found on www.songlyrics.com ]
Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night
And rub my achin' old eyes.
Is that a voice from inside my head
Or does it come down from the sky?
There's a time to laugh but there's a time to weep
And a time to make a big change.
Wake up you bum the time has come to arrange and rearrange and rearrange.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.

Perhaps the biggest change will come
When we don't have to change much at all.
When maniacs holler "grow, grow, grow"
We can choose to be small.
The key word may be "little,"
We only have to change a little bit.
Eat a little food, drink a little drink,
And only have to shit a little shit.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, and only have to shit a little shit.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, and only have to shit a little shit.

Early in the morning I first see the sun
I say a little prayer for the world.
I hope all the children live a long, long time,
Yes, every little boy and little girl.
I hope they learn to laugh at the way
Some wicked old words do seem to change,
'Cause that's what life's all about: To arrange and rearrange and rearrange.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.
Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.

Pete Seeger

nina said...

Scienceguy--That's a perfect complement to my feelings today.
Thank you for adding it here. I had not heard it before!

Suzanne said...

Thank you for such a wonderful M post. Trees are on my mine too as our trees are resplendant with color here in New England.

Old Wom Tigley said...

Hi Nina
What an interesting post... well worth reading and the comments too... hope this small message finds you well.
Tom

Mine's Here

ChrisC and JonJ said...

I like what you did with the post.Very nice.

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for the wonderful and informative post about the maple tree. I once tasted the maple syrup and I found it delicious. I never understood how it was got.

richies said...

An awesome tree and an awesome post. I love Maple syrup. When you know a little bit about what it takes to harvest and cook down the syrup, you can understand why it is expensive.

Kim from Hiraeth said...

That hummingbird nest is a work of art! I am very impressed with your photos of the nests and love your description of Mother Maple.

Beautiful.

leslie said...

I love your writing! And your photos are lovely, too, and complement the narrative beautifully. Happy M-Day! :D

Rinkly Rimes said...

It was the subtlety of the colours that attracted me to your photo, White snow, white paintwork? Yes, but there's mauve, pink, cream, grey and so many other shades there as well!

Rocky Mtn. Girl said...

A wonderful and warm post to read! A terrific contribution to ABC Wednesday.. always a pleasure to come by!
~Michele~
Mountain Retreat-Canada

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

May Mother Maple continue to be a strong presence in your garden for years to come. Nice post.

Lily Hydrangea said...

that hummingbird nest is the neatest thing. I'm not sure if I'd ever spot that. thanks for a wonderful post

Bear Naked said...

Mother Maple--a senior tree.
I think I like her.
Perfect for letter M on ABC Wednesday.

Bear((( )))

Gary said...

A marvellous mighty maple indeed - with its own menagerie!

Gary
Bodge's Bulletin

ArneA said...

Cannot remember seeing you earlier, but will probably return

nina said...

I've become so used to sugaring that I left out much of the process from sap to syrup.
Each year, I've hoped to record it here, in February as the spring thaw gets things running. But, again, as last year, we may hold off on tapping them. If the drought is enough of a stressor to the trees, I don't want my sweet tooth to be the killing blow.

Maple syrup is made from collected sap, that is boiled in large pans outdoors to release the huge amount of water and leave syrup behind. Although concentrations vary from year to year, we find it takes about 40 gallons of collected sap to yield 1 gallon of maple syrup!

Rose said...

A beautiful post, Nina. I share your love of trees--well who wouldn't love a maple at this time of year? Your description of the yearly cyle of life for the trees is lovely.

NCmountainwoman said...

I think Mother Maple is depressed because of those horrid Blue Jays. Hopefully, she will get over it and be fine by spring.

Webradio said...

Hello Nina !
Very nice blog, withe pretty photo...
I'com again to read other posts...

ellen b said...

Oh Nina! How fabulous is that a hummingbird nest!! I have never seen one before. Your Mother Maple is great. Wonderful choice for M!!

D Herrod said...

That is very cool that you can grow your own maple syrup.

Jay said...

I love this post! I love old trees too, though we have no maple to harvest syrup from, only one small ornamental maple which doesn't even turn red in the autumn.

The baby hummingbirds are so sweet! Your photography is excellent!

me ann my camera said...

Big old Maples are so wonderful. We have two along our driveway taller than our 2 1/1 storey house. They are glorious at this time of year. Yours and your text are beautiful!
ann

nina said...

ncmountainwoman remembers the sad ending to the hummingbird saga. I'm finding it difficult to get it out of my mind, too. Even as I write this, the yard is screaming with their cries--I don't remember having this many Blue Jays in years past.
I hope they haven't taken too much of their share of this habitat.

Neva said...

A very good M on my favorite tree!

Famous Quotes said...

I like what you did with post

The Tile Lady said...

What a WONDERFUL tree she is! She gives life, shelters life, nurtures our souls! Just loved this post! Hope the tree is with you for quite some time yet. She has so much character!

Rebeckah said...

Your home is LOVELY! I also love the maple trees in your front and back yard! So pretty! Leaves make me delighted. Green and assorted colors also!

Jace Stansbury said...

Nina,

How on earth did you spot the hummer nest? I've heard they are incredibly hard to find. Very nice photos.

Jace

Kathiesbirds said...

I love that you call her "Mother Maple". Makes me think of a children's book I love called "Whisper in the Woods." Lovely idea and illustrations. Check it out from your local library if you get the chance. I think you would like it also.

Robin Easton said...

Oh Nina, this is SUCH a lovely post. You really do love nature and all her creatures. I think you are like me: Nature is what you live for. It is you. Or you've become it. I just feel you love here and relate so strongly to it. The photos are just so graceful and elegant also. I am so glad to shared this with me. Such a beautiful read.