- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) - After a long winter, springtime in West Michigan sure smells sweet. If it’s in Traci and Andy Krino’s neighborhood in Holland, that might just be the smell of maple syrup in the air.

When the sweet smell brings neighbors, friends and random people walking nearby to the Krinos’ house, they can see the process of making the natural sweetener from the lone sugar maple in front of the house to the small evaporator in the back yard.

“The harder you work for something, the more you see the reward,” Traci Krino told The Holland Sentinel ( https://bit.ly/1ExQFAD ).

The amount of syrup they get depends on the year. In a particularly good year, they can make 10 gallons of maple syrup. How does a family of four consume 10 gallons of maple syrup? One pancake at a time.

“Pancakes every Saturday morning - our boys would not let us give that up,” Traci Krino said.

She also bakes all the family’s bread and uses maple syrup in place of processed sweeteners.

“We’re kind of a from-scratch family,” Andy Krino said.

Anything they can grow or build or make themselves, they do. Their two boys, Eli, 7, and Arlo, 10, are homeschooled, and they are educated in what some might call old-fashioned lifeskills.

“I think it tastes better than the store bought stuff,” said Arlo, who enjoys feeding the fire with pine boughs. His little brother, Eli agreed that “how it tastes at the end” was the best part.

A particularly good haul for one day is 80 gallons of sap - which boils down to about 2 gallons of syrup.

Most of the Krinos’ 15-or-so tapped sugar maples are on a property in Douglas. In 2004, Andy Krino, a carpenter by trade, helped dismantle an 1867 Yankee three-bay barn and build a home using the same wood and same footprint. The owner Arnold Shafer allows the family to tap the trees on his property. The orchard that once occupied what is now called “Shafer Haus” grew apples, peaches, pears and elderberries for the Chicago market and likely tapped the maple trees, Shafer said.

Each repurposed 5-gallon food-grade bucket is at various stages of full with what looks like icy water. In fact, the sap is made up of mostly water, which will evaporate in the cooking process.

Each tree is at least 2 feet in diameter. Hanging out of each tree is a piece of PEX - flexible tubing used in plumbing. It’s “nice and flexible,” Andy Krino said, and it just plain “does the job.”

Trees give the best sap when there has been a cold winter and a good freeze-thaw cycle with cold nights and days in the mid-40s to 50 degrees.

“Trees like that apparently,” he said.

The last week, or so, of the season, the sap gets darker and produces a syrup with a more earthy flavor.

“It’s like a gift to us,” Andy Krino said. “It’s like ushering in the spring.”

Canning in the fall, maple syrup in the spring, eating in season, it all creates a rhythm in their lives, Traci Krino said. It’s a way to connect to the seasons and a way of “surrendering to God’s timing.”

“I think we were both born 100 years too late,” he said.


Information from: The Holland Sentinel, https://www.thehollandsentinel.com

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