If you attend a farmers market in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, or some other nearby city, you’re likely to come across a table selling jugs of maple syrup. This is the booth of Abe’s Sugar Bush, and behind the table you’ll likely find Harold Aebly.
Anyone who grew up in Northern Wisconsin probably has some experience making maple syrup. Maybe you had an enthusiastic relative who made hundreds of gallons a year, or perhaps you decided to make a batch yourself as a school project.
There’s something romantic about tapping trees and harvesting sap. Sap usually runs in late February or early March, so it’s already a festive time of year. Warm temperatures are returning, and after the deep freeze of January, it’s a relief to get back to warmer days and see the snow start to melt.
Everybody who has ever made maple syrup always comes to the same conclusion: it’s a lot of work. Today, we have easy access to hundreds of sweet treats. However, it’s interesting to think that if our grandparents and great grandparents wanted a taste of something sweet, maple syrup was one of their best choices.
If you find Aebly at one of the farmers markets, he’d be delighted to talk with you about the process of making maple syrup. His table is sure to be decorated with informative fliers and photos.
The short explanation is that you collect sap and boil it. Aebly says the ratio is 40 to 1, which means you have to harvest 40 gallons of sap to get a single gallon of maple syrup. Aebly said he usually makes around 115 gallons of syrup for the summer and sells it all by the time the farmers markets start closing down in October.
Aebly offered a wonderful anecdote about how his business got its name.
The name comes from my high school teacher. In the wood shop he made a mistake on my bill for the wood I used. He was charging me too little. I corrected him so he started calling me honest Abe (my last name is pronounced with a short "a" but the English pronounce it with along "A"). While I was in the service I dropped the honest and kept "Abe" as my nick name—Harold Aebly
The business card for Abe’s Sugar Bush reads “produced by a disabled vet,” so I’d like to thank Harold Aebly for his service. A quart of his maple syrup is priced at $18.00.
There really is no substitute for authentic maple syrup. The next time you’re at your local farmers market, be on the lookout for Aebly. Locally produced maple syrup is a special treat. When the sap starts running in February, you call up your old friends to come and help with the harvest. Then, when the summer comes, you get to make new friends while selling the final product. It sounds like a marvelous way to live.
A regional product made with care and affection for the local community is what the farmers market is all about.
For the Abe’s Sugar Bush Facebook page, click here.
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