If the goal is self-sufficiency, we need to grow (and forage) and harvest as much as we can. The reality of our modern life, in the suburbs, is that there are things we will pay for, until those things are no longer available to us, and if we're lucky (or smart), we'll be able to continue to afford those things, even after they're no longer around.
Being self-sufficient, doesn't mean that we do everything for ourselves, but rather that those fluctuations - price, availability - won't have a negative impact on our lives. It's not about doing it all by ourselves, but about having that sense of independence from a system over which we have no control and/or being able to roll with the proverbial punches. In short, a huge part of self-sufficiency entails being flexible.
It also requires that we take advantage of what we're given. That is, when it's an "apple year", we harvest as many apples as we can find, and preserve them - either as juice or cider or apple sauce or dried apples - but we preserve them, because next year, we won't know what kind of year it will be until next apple season gets here, and in nature there are absolutely no guarantees, except that, there are no guarantees.
Such has been our experience with sugaring - every year is different, and our only course of action is to listen to our gut, because the calendar is a very poor predictor of when things should happen, and even with all of their fancy equipment, modern meterologists often get things wrong. Like apple season, we won't know what kind of sugaring season we're going to have until we've had it, and the only thing we can do is look at the signs and act according to our very limited experience.
Deus Ex Machina believes that he tapped too early, given that the sap isn't flowing as freely he had hoped it would be. The fact that it's flowing at all leads me to believe that his gut feeling was correct, and it was time. It certainly wasn't too early, as, if it had been, there wouldn't be anything in the buckets.
All of that said, there does seem to be a little bit of maple sugaring season still left for those who are interested in exploring this incredibly enjoyable project. Not only does it give one a huge sense of empowerment to realize that anyone can make "maple syrup" with a tap, a bucket, and a fire, but it can also save a great deal of money ... and frankly, those pseudo-syrup products on the market can't hold a candle to the real thing - not only are they not food, but they just aren't good for our bodies.
Joe, at TapMyTrees.com, approached Deus Ex Machina about doing a giveaway, and he's generously offered a "starter kit" to one person. If you're interested in trying out maple sugaring, leave a comment on Deus Ex Machina's blog.