In the spring when old man winter starts to fade a long-standing tradition begins all over again at Hough’s Maple Lane Farm. When the days are warm and sunny and nights are still below freezing, Rob and Lynnette Hough and their two children get ready to go “sugaring.” Rob became interested in making maple syrup or “sugaring” to continue his family tradition. Rob’s great-grandfather Ralph Angle owned a farm between Cedarville & Dakota Illinois. The Buckeye Township farm had a stand of virgin hard maple trees. Each spring Ralph and his family would venture out to the maples and build a sugar camp. For six short weeks the sugar camp became the center of activity on the little Northern Illinois farm. They would drill a hole in each tree with a brace & bit. They would then drive hand carved taps into the holes and place a bucket underneath them. The sap was collected in the buckets and then gathered and hauled to the center of the sugar camp where the fire was located. The sap was then placed in a large iron kettle which was situated over the roaring fire. The water was evaporated out leaving behind pure maple syrup. The syrup was then placed in jars or pitchers and used in the Angle kitchen. When Rob was a youth his Grandmother Ginny, Ralph’s youngest daughter would tell him tales of sugaring. That was the spark that ignited Rob’s fire to keep this family tradition going. Although over ¾ of a century later the process really hasn’t changed much. The brace & bit hangs on the wall as a decoration, cordless drills now do the work. Handfuls of the original sumac taps are now stored in a crock just for looks, with modern less invasive metal taps hanging in the trees. Bags have given way to buckets for collection as the sap is no longer boiled in a large kettle over an open fire. Today the sap is boiled in an evaporator in the family’s sugar house, yet still fired by wood. Once golden amber, the syrup is drawn off, filtered and bottled. Nothing added, no preservatives, no coloring, no chemicals, nothing, just as Ralph did over 8 decades ago and according to Ginny, he’d be proud because the syrup is just as good!
Maple Lane Farm in the 1950’s when it was owned by H.S. Middlekauff