Naturalist, Artist and Author
Priscilla Woolworth is a medicine woman in every sense. Her vast knowledge within the natural world extends across many realms of understanding, from the tapping of sugar maple trees, to foraging and organic farming. As an author, mother and farmer, she listens to the wisdom that the earth has to offer, living within the fullness of nature with care and reciprocity.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m happily caught in the web of nature, and protecting it is my purpose. Currently, I live in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York - I run an online store, and manage a mini organic farm 6 months of the year where I grow my own food, and forage for wild edibles in the woods nearby.
What was the catalyst for your move to the country and your immersion into the world of tapping sugar maple trees?
In order to live deeper in nature, be the steward of a piece of land, learn to live increasingly off the land, and grow my own organic food - all the while experiencing the dramatically changing seasons - I moved four years ago from Los Angeles to the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. I missed my daughters who were living in NYC and I longed to live somewhere surrounded by trees - where I could walk out of my front door and into nature.
“In order to live deeper in nature, be the steward of a piece of land, learn to live increasingly off the land”
When did this journey begin for you?
It wasn’t until I was here for six months that I discovered many mature sugar maple trees growing alongside the river by my home. I couldn’t wait for the first Winter, so that I could tap the sugar maples and make my own syrup for the first time.
What is the process for tapping sugar maples?
I learned that the last month or two of Winter is sugaring time, that’s when the sugar maple tree sap is flowing. Tapping a tree is when you drill a small hole in the south-facing side of the tree, insert a spile into that hole, and attach a lidded bucket to the spile. The sap will start flowing when daytime temperatures are above 32 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing. The rising temperature creates pressure in the tree, generating the sap flow, which transfers the sap from the tree above the ground and the root system below the ground. Tapping the tree does not hurt it and once the spile is removed, the hole will naturally repair itself. The sap flows for approximately 4-6 weeks.
How much syrup did you yield from your first tapping experience?
For the first season, I tapped just 4 trees, as soon as I attached the buckets, the sap started flowing. By the next day, I had collected several gallons.
“(As winter comes to an end and Spring arrives)...rising temperature creates pressure in the tree, generating the sap flow, which transfers the sap from the tree above the ground and the root system below the ground.”
How is the sugar maple sap turned into the delicious, syrupy nectar we all know and love?
Once the sap is emptied into food-safe buckets, I bring it to where I have set up a cooking stove in my open wood shed. Before pouring the maple water into the cooking pot, I filter it using an organic mesh cloth to catch the tiny bits of maple tree bark. I then check the water as it renders down over the space of 8 to 10 hours - it’s important to watch the sap like a hawk as you near the end of the process to avoid scorching the syrup.
What are the other benefits of maple besides being a delicious sweetener?
You can drink maple water - it’s rich in minerals, contains 16 times more potassium, 37 times more calcium, and 3.9 times more magnesium than spring water. All three of these are essential for optimal bone health. Maple sap has been found to lower blood pressure, support a healthy immune system and it even contains antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals. It does also contain sugar of course, so drink in moderation.
We know you’re deeply connected to nature and the natural rhythms of the earth, is this why you created your almanacs?
The almanac was an ongoing love letter to nature. My intention was to raise awareness about all the ways we can protect and nourish Mother Earth, and all the amazing people doing incredible work to better the planet.
Priscilla’s friend Amanda Pays is wearing The Astrid Dress in Maple Daisy Dot)
“I missed having a trusted guide to teach me about healthy choices and how to look after myself.”
What was your inspiration to create your book LOLA?
I was inspired by my two daughters, and also by my own experiences when I was their age. I missed having a trusted guide to teach me about healthy choices and how to look after myself.
How do you Honor Mother Earth?
I try and honor Mother Earth every day by leaving as light a footprint as I can and knowing what is best left alone and undisturbed.