“The thrust is no longer for ‘change’ or ‘progress’ or ‘revolution,’ but merely to escape, to live on the far perimeter of a world that might have been.”
-Hunter S. Thompson, The Hashbury is the Capital of the Hippies (May 1967)
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” – Albert Camus
A long, long time ago, Dave’s Brown Buffalo Attorney, Big Dan, Esq., got busted for being too loud. Some BS charges of nuisance violations on his college campus that The Man threatened to tack on to his “Permanent Record.”
The almighty powers that t’were gave this loud, degenerate, music-loving freak his nuisance violation with an accompanying choice in order to avoid a dreaded stain on his reputation: wash windows or help the monks at St. John’s University haul the sap of maple trees. Big Dan chose to slop the sap. He found such a Zen in this cyclical nature-based kind of ritual that he soon called up his Pop and a couple of friends, saying, “This maple tapping, there’s something here, it’s not easy — but it’s not too hard. And the result is pure sweetness.”
Harvesting a form of sugar is an essential part of a self-sufficient lifestyle and a whole-life farm. The last big stop on our Road to Gonzoville was at Shoreview Farms in Minnesota to learn how to tap maples and make syrup with Dan.
Dan and Dave were raised in the ‘burbs as Boy Scouts and dreamed of living off the land. In college they would smoke, listen to the Dead, and devour HST books. They’d hit the asphalt on epic weekend road trips in Dan’s Thunderbird. Their adventures mostly involved escaping to the woods to fish and hunt for deer, duck, and freedom. A sweet escape from their college training to join The Establishment.
Dan has found a way to balance a life of upholding justice as a straight-laced Attorney and a life of freedom and tranquility by creating something from the nature around him. He and his tree-tapping partners have their own property and know some good folks nearby who don’t mind lending out their trees for sugaring, especially since they get a bit of the finished product in return.
It was unseasonably cold this week on the road to Gonzoville, but temperatures were expected to start rising the next day. Sap tapping requires this delicate balance to create the required pressure drop that forces sap out of the tree and into the bucket. Tapping with a tube is all pressure and gravity — no vacuum like some of the industrial farms — Here, they just let it flow.
We picked out our tree and three feet or so up it, drilled in about four inches at an upward angle. Then we cleaned out the hole with a bore brush. The tap was plastic attached to a tube, we stuck that tube into a bucket on the ground. You can tap any kind of maple and many other types of trees including birch, walnut, and hickory; all you need are a few inexpensive pieces of equipment.
You can see in the photos that the maple sap (aka maple water) comes out clear with tints ranging from bluish to gold when it’s a clean first-run. The maple water is tasty straight from the tree — it is a low-calorie beverage containing minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. This maple water is boiled down in an intense and time-consuming process; it takes an entire day and 40 gallons of sap to create one gallon of finished syrup. When boiled down by half, the sap becomes cloudy and the sweetness and maple flavor starts to emerge. We enjoyed a steaming sample of the sap at this point in the reduction process and it was delicious…
“Ne Plus Ultra” is Latin for The highest degree of achievement or excellence, and that is the Shoreview Farms’ product: the ultimate in fresh maple syrup made in small batches to preserve the purity of this natural treat.
After leaving the Midwest sugar shack, these Free Range Quest road rogues were once again on our way to Kentucky. We’ve finally arrived in Gonzoville to help pay tribute to a man who unapologetically enjoyed the sweet things in life. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson honored decadence and we will honor his continuously relevant and inspiring work this week at GonzoFest.
We’re doing a drawing for one of the jars of Minnesota’s own Ne Plus Ultra syrup that Free Range Quest made with Dan while we were on The Road to Gonzoville! Subscribe or comment below to enter to win a bottle of this extremely limited batch of liquid gold! Tell us you shared this story on Facebook and we will double your entry…
VIA AD ASTRA!
-Dave & Kristina-
You can still help to honor Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and be part of GonzoFest 2014 by donating a couple bucks to The Gonzo Foundation, a non-profit created to promote literature, journalism and political activism through the legacy of Dr. HST.
**Dennis was the winner of the maple syrup drawing! Thanks to our readers who shared and commented!