A sweet hobby A pair of brothers and their two brothers-in-law have been enjoying one of the best seasons for making maple syrup in recent memory

Don Giesen adds some sap to one of the grills as he and his brother Norb cook maple syrup in Norb’s garage in New Prague. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

For the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of cooking going on in the garage at 210 First Street SE in New Prague.

Norb Giesen, along with his brother Don and brothers-in-law Norb Gill and Jim Kratochvil, have been hard at work with their springtime hobby. They sometimes have as many as four gas grills going at one time. And the results have been so sweet.

This is the eighth spring that the group has been making homemade maple syrup in the Giesen garage, and Norb and Don say this has been their most productive year.

“We started tapping the trees in mid- March,” said Norb. “But it was still pretty cold and we didn’t get a good run right away. We started getting sap in late March, and around the first of April it really started going good.”

The long, drawn-out winter weather has extended the run. The abundance of sap this year is a big change from last year, when the mild winter and early spring meant a short season for those making homemade maple syrup.

“Yesterday we collected about 90 gallons. We have about 120 taps in trees, and we’ve been getting anywhere from 70 to 140 gallons a day,” Norb said.

“It gets hard to go out in the woods and collect it all,” he added.

Don said that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup.

As of late last week they had made about 30 gallons of syrup, and they figure it won’t last much longer. “The trees are starting to bud,” Don said late last week. “That’s when things shut down.” He estimated they had about three or four days left to cook.

Norb Giesen says they either sell the sweet syrup, or sometimes give it away as gifts. “I think we probably give away more than we sell,” Don laughed. “It’s much better than the syrup you get in the stores.”

Maple syrup can be used for a lot of foods. What do the brothers like to have with their syrup?

They looked at each other and grinned... “Ice cream. It makes a great topping for ice cream,” Don said. They also use it on oatmeal or dry cereal... “Anything that needs a sweetener,” Norb said.

They have put a lot of hours in Norb’s garage making the syrup. “When you’re retired, you need something to keep you busy,” Norb said. “This gives us something to do.”