March 31

March 31, 2010

WEATHER: Low in the 30’s, high today 46, overcast, breezy.

SAP STATUS: The sap keeps running day and night, tapering off during the night. Today it ran less than yesterday, a predictable result of no freezing nights. The sap is very weak, like most end-of-season sap.

BOILING STATUS: Day 18. The syrup is a bit darker than yesterday’s, no surprise.

THE FAT LADY has been warming up for a few days; we expect to hear her  break into her aria tomorrow. She is not the only fat one – the maple buds are fat and swollen. And the rhubarb is coming up, the red-winged blackbirds are back, and the woodsy section of the driveway is past mud season. Old-timers speak of the frog run, when the last sap run coincides with the sound of the first peepers. I only recall a few frog runs in the thirty years we’ve been sugaring here, occurring in mid to late April.

DINNER IN THE SUGARHOUSE, post script: At the same time we’re hidden away from the whole world, we are firmly at the center of the whole world – the sugarhouse during a night boil.

THE CREW:  The neighborhood boys who ran up after school day after day to fill their Dixie cups with hot syrup and then tear around our place – climbing on the woodpile, making forts up near the cupola, pushing each other on the barrel dollie  – are now in their twenties: strong, alert and keen on sugaring. This year we have two main guys who live across the way. We’ll call them at 9:30 am and say we need help starting at 2:30 pm, or we may not know until 2:30 pm that we need help at 6 pm. It’s impossible to plan ahead. When they get here, we can’t even tell them when the work day will end – it could be 8 pm or 2 am.

Many other younger Nebraska Valley kids, girls and boys, help out part-time serving sugar-on-snow, stacking wood, scrubbing, cleaning tubing, canning syrup, making maple cream and sugar and working in the woods.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Yuhhhhh,” spoken musically and with finality.


March 30

March 31, 2010

WEATHER: Low in the 30’s, high today 41, rainy.

SAP STATUS: The sap has been running since Monday morning, in particular the Keystone and Maresan taps.

BOILING STATUS: Today is Day 17. We started around noon and at this posting are still boiling. Since it’s a cool rainy day, the sugarhouse seems especially cozy. The rain pushes the steam down. From the main road one-third mile away, tufts of white steam accent the somber hillside. On warmer days the steam dissipates more readily.

PRACTICAL LESSON OF THE DAY: Remember to wear a thick shirt or a Johnson wool jacket with long sleeves when you are drawing syrup from the pans or stoking. I stripped down to a thin cotton shirt with long sleeves and spilled boiling hot sap onto my arm while scooping from the back pan. Better to perspire than to risk a burn. (Mine was not serious.)

SUPPER IN THE SUGARHOUSE: Meatloaf, sweet potatoes and salad brought up by the mother of the crew, biscuits baked in maple syrup for dessert. Some of us sat on the back bench, dangling our legs and feeling hidden away from the whole world.

ARCHIVAL JOURNAL ENTRY, March 30, 2005: W  McG, a first-grader, ate copious amounts of foam rising off the sap in the float box, exclaiming, “This tastes like regular foam!”