Sweet Taste of Friendship

Friendship helped a 71-year-old-veteran collect sap from his backyard maple trees and get that sweet spring taste of homemade maple syrup.

Ray Lindberg checks a pot of boiling sap Saturday, March 27, 2021, at Andy and Sue Cairn's home in Brainerd. Lindberg has been collecting sap in his yard for 5 years and has tried to refine the sap at home. This year, he took his sap and combined it the Cairns at their Brainerd home. Lindberg, a Vietnam veteran likes to collect sap and give the maple syrup to his children. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

When Vietnam era veteran Ray Lindberg, 71, of Brainerd tried to boil his maple sap last year, it was a mess. It boiled over at home and Lindberg was left with nothing but sticky appliances.

This year, Andy and Sue Cairns offered to help Lindberg with his 100 gallons of sap he collected from the maples trees in his backyard. The Cairns are veteran sugar bush people, collecting hundreds of gallons of sap and boiling it over a wood fire in their north Brainerd yard.

The offer to bring his sap and blend it with the Cairns’ was a welcome relief to the 71-year-old.


"I just gather the sap and boil it for gifts for my kids," he said.

Ray Lindberg collects maple sap in his yard Thursday, March 25, 2021, in rural Brainerd. He collects about 60-70 gallons of sap which makes about 10 pints of maple syrup. He gives the syrup to his children. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Not only is Lindberg among friends, he trusts the expertise of the Cairns who have learned from their mistakes through the years. Tapping the maple trees began in early March but Ray's trees in his backyard really began to flow in the last week. Maple syrup people wait for the late winter, early spring weather to trigger the maple trees to produce the flow of sap.

Ray Lindberg pours hot maple syrup into a filter Monday, March 29, 2021, at the Cairn home in north Brainerd. The syrup is filtered at high temperatures and reheated to be bottled. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch .

According to Lindberg, "The best weather for sap is below freezing nights and warm days to begin the process."

It is unknown how much maple syrup Lindberg will end up with. This week, Lindberg went home with five pints. The sweet season is not over yet.


I was raised on a farm in western Minnesota where I participated in 4-H, high school sports, and everything that farm kids do for fun after chores. Graduated from Ridgewater Community College with an AA degree and my first taste of newspapering. I worked a summer on the Ortonville Independent as a reporter and photographer.
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