As we sat idle one winter we remembered a hobby that we both enjoyed when we were young with our own families, making pure Maple Syrup.

Written by Missy Thompson

How we got started. Dan and I were raised here in Jefferson NY. We went to school together. We were best friends all through school. When we finished school we began our journey together. But things were a bit different. Dan chose to go into the United States Navy and I went to college. Two years later we were married and living near Dan’s military base in Virginia. It wasn’t far from the beach with lots of sun. Five years later we made the decision to get out of the military and go home. At this point we had Peter running around at almost two years old. Being home was so nice being close to family again. And then it happened. The snow started coming, and coming, and coming. Now it’s only January and it has snowed for 20 straight days. My winter blues were in full swing. And that’s when I started to wonder if I could live here anymore where the sun never seems to shine, especially when I used to live next to the beach where the sun always shines.

Dan came home from work one day in January and made a suggestion that we go back in time to when we both tapped maple trees as kids with our own families. We called my grandma to see if she still had the evaporator that she and grandpa had used years ago to make maple syrup. And she did. It was pretty much still set up in an out building. So it began. We tapped the trees around our house, my parents, and my grandma’s house. The sap began to run and we boiled at grandma’s house. It was so much fun during the day, but nights were hard. We had a toddler running around who needed naps and bedtimes. After that year we asked grandma if we could buy her evaporator from her and move it to our house. With new baby Paul born, we took a year off and tried again in 2004. We moved everything and started boiling at our house. Boy was it rough, but with great friends and family to help us get through with two babies, 300 taps, and Dan’s crazy work schedule.

We had lots of long nights. During those long nights of boiling we shared stories of our childhoods. Dan’s family would tap the trees and sell the sap to a nearby sap house for extra money. My family would boil on a 55 gallon drum with a flat pan to make maple syrup for the family. Then the family would stop over during the sapping season and the stories would start about way back when. Dan knew that his grandma made maple syrup but that was it until she came to visit one sap season. She looked like a little kid sitting in the sap house telling Dan how to run things. She had a huge evaporator and her stories went back to gathering sap all in buckets (we use both buckets and tubing to gather) with horses and a wagon. We were awestruck. We didn’t know that part. Now with updated equipment we have become so much more efficient. We still have some late evenings but we don’t see the sun come up the next morning anymore.

Dan came home from work one day in January and made a suggestion that we go back in time to when we both tapped maple trees as kids with our own families. We called my grandma to see if she still had the evaporator that she and grandpa had used years ago to make maple syrup. And she did. It was pretty much still set up in an out building. So it began. We tapped the trees around our house, my parents, and my grandma’s house. The sap began to run and we boiled at grandma’s house. It was so much fun during the day, but nights were hard. We had a toddler running around who needed naps and bedtimes. After that year we asked grandma if we could buy her evaporator from her and move it to our house. With new baby Paul born, we took a year off and tried again in 2004. We moved everything and started boiling at our house. Boy was it rough, but with great friends and family to help us get through with two babies, 300 taps, and Dan’s crazy work schedule.

We had lots of long nights. During those long nights of boiling we shared stories of our childhoods. Dan’s family would tap the trees and sell the sap to a nearby sap house for extra money. My family would boil on a 55 gallon drum with a flat pan to make maple syrup for the family. Then the family would stop over during the sapping season and the stories would start about way back when. Dan knew that his grandma made maple syrup but that was it until she came to visit one sap season. She looked like a little kid sitting in the sap house telling Dan how to run things. She had a huge evaporator and her stories went back to gathering sap all in buckets (we use both buckets and tubing to gather) with horses and a wagon. We were awestruck. We didn’t know that part. Now with updated equipment we have become so much more efficient. We still have some late evenings but we don’t see the sun come up the next morning anymore.

As time went on, the boys grew and Peter came home with a school project one year. He wanted to do a family tree on us with maple syrup. We couldn’t believe it, with the family’s help; Peter was able to find out different stories of family members making maple syrup all the way back into the late 1800’s on both sides of his family tree. We tried to ask more questions to see if we could go back further, and then realized that by that time sugar wasn’t easily found in the north because it is grown in the south and transportation wasn’t very good. So we believe that maple syrup was just what you did as your sugar back then.

We have had some additions to the Thompson’s Sugar Shack LLC family, Dan’s brother Jon and Peter’s wife Melanie. We have now made maple syrup a bigger family event. Now when the kids stop in, it does look like the circus came to town but what a barrel of laughs, which are the memories to our journey.

As the boys were growing we would take our syrup throughout our communities and sell it at different festivals or to the mall at Christmas. The boys would compete to see how many sales they could each get for the day. Melanie has had the crash course in maple too. She would jump into the shows with us. Now Peter and Melanie like to sell our maple syrup at different shows all around. They have been seen in our local mall at Christmas time, Long Island once or twice a year, and in our own local communities. Occasionally Paul will jump in on a show but he would rather tap trees and bring the sap in.

The festivals a lot of times it’s like catching up with old friends that we don’t get time to visit with and you only see at this time of year. We love our small communities and our returning customers that make up our personal community. You all have become like family. Without all of you our journey would have ended when the boys were in high school. Thank you!