Lest you think I have been doing nothing creative, I’ve been trying to meet deadlines (some successful, some not so much). I have finished about 700 inches of binding and two hand lettered labels, two sleeves for hanging and all the paperwork to go with it. Full pictures coming here soon, I hope, but in the meantime, here’s a progress shot.
Archive for March, 2010
It must be spring. Right on time, yesterday, I saw my first robin. Really it was a small flock. I don’t know what they’re eating, though I have noticed there are some bugs around – I’ve seen some in the sap buckets. Our ground is still mostly covered with snow though there are some bare patches here and there, especially as you get off our hill and closer to town.
I’ve noticed spring in the air too. It’s in that warm earthy smell as the ground reawakens. I hasn’t been a particularly hard winter, at least as far as Vermont goes. But I think I’m ready.
When the rest of the world is awakening to Spring, Vermonters are sugaring. Our daffodils are still slumbering under a thick blanket of white but the trees are starting to stir as the days warm above freezing but the nights are still cold. When spring is so long in coming, it is a delight to be out in the woods in anticipation. The sugaring season lasts about a month and by then you are ready to be done with the long hours of hauling and boiling down. But the rewards are sweet for the rest of the year.
We’ve made some changes this year. We’ve added 5 more buckets for a total of 25, and we’re boiling down at our friends’ set up in their sugar house. The process goes something like this:
Every day we head out into the woods with our 5 gallon pails to collect sap. We wear snow shoes because the snow is deep and even with the shoes you sometimes sink to China. We empty each bucket into the pails and carry the sap back to the house. Yep, it’s heavy and I don’t fill the pails over 3 gallons. That way I don’t risk spilling any and I can carry two at a time. At the house we load it into an ice chest so we can transport it to our friends’ sugar house. Once there, we filter it into a large clean trash can until we’re ready to boil. The filtering removes little bits of bark, moss, bugs, etc. Our friends have a nice set up with a modified wood stove, some custom made boiling pans and an improvised pre-heater. We load the sap into the pre-heater, it runs through the coiled copper pipe around the exhaust stack and into the top pan and finally into the bottom pan where we draw it off for finishing in the kitchen. Sounds simple but it takes a long time.
While we wait for the evaporation to occur, there is plenty of time for sweet fellowship, game playing and sharing dinner together. Our first meal was pizza take-out, then waffles with syrup from the first boil, and tonight, burgers with all the fixings and brownies for dessert. Meals are a little rustic in the sugar house: paper plates and plastic ware on your lap, but it all tastes so good, just like anything cooked and eaten outdoors.
When the sap comes from the trees it is a clear liquid and looks pretty much like water. The sugar content of the sap is good this year, about 2%. It takes an average of 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. The boiling gets rid of all that extra water and leaves you with liquid gold – maple syrup. We’ve finished two batches so far for a total of 6 pints which we’re sharing with our friends. We have another batch ready to finish tomorrow morning.
It’s been slow coming here, snow wise. Recently we got 30+ inches and have been enjoying winter….finally. We now have a good ground cover (several feet), though here we never actually had grass showing. This is one of the things I like about winter in Vermont – snow on the ground all winter long. I know – I’m probably certifiable.
Of course, this being March, these icicles don’t hang around that long. We’ve had several good crops of them over the last week or so. I know they are dangerous but I personally love them and the shapes they take on, especially if there is wind.
With large snowfalls like we have had, there are always casualties. I neglected to get a photo of the stop sign in town that was sheared off about a foot off the ground. But here is a mailbox drowning in the plow mounds along the side of our road.
And it is March after all, so that means SUGARING. We’ve been out in the woods, drilling holes and putting in taps, hanging buckets and loving the ping ping in the bottom of the bucket. We boiled down our first two pints (pictures later) – there could have been more had there not been a hole in our storage container. (Sigh) The days are perfect – warmer days, below freezing nights – and there is promise of more to come. Ping, ping, ping….