April 5

April 5, 2010

WEATHER: Returned to the 30’s Sunday night, high today 60, and that felt cool after a torrid weekend.

THE FAR CORNER OF THE SUGARHOUSE: As you enter the sugarhouse, to the left is the smokestack ascending from the end of the arch. The arch is 12′ by 4′, so walk the 12 feet to the other end of the arch and you are at the firebox. Turn to your left and walk 2 feet: the thick black firebox door will be on your left, a pile of wood for stoking the arch will be on your right. Behind the wood are doors to the woodshed. All of this you will notice readily. The sugarhouse is built into the bank, so the wall facing you is cement up to about 6 feet, and above that are a row of high windows.

In the dark corner behind the wood are the medieval tools, black and silent. There is the heavy black iron rake used for scraping the ashes off the grates; it is a right-angled piece of iron with an 8-foot pole. There is the heavy black flue brush, much longer and with a doughnut-shaped brush at the end. There is a crowbar and a black square shovel.

To clean the ashes, you will want to put on the sooty Johnson wool jacket, the sooty wool hat to match, ratty old gloves and a face mask. Grab a flashlight and drag the ashes bucket around to the firebox. Reach for the long heavy rake in the corner, then open the bulky door to the firebox. It will creak and groan. Drag the rake across the thick grates, slowly, rhythmically, clankily, feeling your way, scraping across centuries of fireboxes and ashes.

CLEANUP  will go on for longer than anyone would wish. After the woods work comes the scrubbing down of every square inch of equipment and the sugarhouse.

IN THE WOODS  the spring beauties are blooming on the forest floor. Their blossoms are dainty and white, with pink stripes. Next will emerge the yellow violets.

It is time to pick wild leeks, also called ramps. They grow in patches only in certain spots. We have only one leek patch in our sugarbush, up on Keystone. Their flavor is more intense than that of other leeks. I usually saute them in butter and add them to whatever I am preparing. As the first fresh green vegetable of the year they taste like pure vitality.

AND SO ENDETH this blog titled SUGAR SEASON 2010.

THE QUEBECOIS  say it best: “C’est la maladie du printemps.”


2 Responses to “April 5”

  1. Betsy Says:

    Thank you, really enjoyed it, as you know. Hope you do this again next year. And the end product of all the hard physical work, the mishaps, and the exhausting rolling with nature’s whims and punches: your syrup, is so finely tended, it is exquisite.

  2. susan bull riley Says:

    Dear Audrey and Lew,

    What a wonderful, wonderful blog! Mom sent me to it this morning because I’m trying to figure out how to sell art and blogging may be of help — yours is so wonderfully written it could turn into a book over time. Love the description of the cleanup (raking across centuries of ashes…) partly because we have to clean our wood boiler (fancy thing…) and I kinda dread it. So I’ll get philosophical while doing it.

    I thought of you a lot during sugaring this year. Spent some time taking about 100 photos of the MacArthur family sugaring this year as part of publicity for them – just a volunteer thing–and they gave me a little cup of their fresh hot fancy syrup and that stuff is hands-down my favorite taste on the planet. I could drink a gallon of it if only my body could bear it! (or my wallet!)

    I think sugaring is one of the most noble traditions anywhere. I’m so proud to know people who still do this — so much work, so much dedication to making it happen.


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