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Sugar March 31, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Warmish days. Cold nights. The sap’s a’runnin’.

Sunday, a bright sunny day, we went up to Merck Forest and Farmland for their annual sugaring celebration. A few years ago, they built a massive sugar house on the property, within walking distance of the visitors center. It’s a two-story building that houses the largest evaporator I’ve ever seen.


We ate blueberry pancakes with fresh grade-A dark-amber maple syrup. We ate sausage made out of previous farm residents of the swine persuasion. We allowed ourselves to be enveloped in thick sweet steam, like a sauna.


The wet sweetness that fills the lungs as the sugar boils—the surrounding outdoor air just warm enough that you can begin to smell the forest again—takes me right back to my college days when we’d head out to sugar at our school’s field station on the lake.

Back then we collected the sap in buckets, grabbing them off the trees and emptying them into a tank on a flatbed attached to an ancient tractor. It was great exercise and great fun (as we usually limited it to a weekend or two, and it wasn’t our job or our livelihood).

I don’t think the college added IV lines to that operation until sometime after I graduated. Here in Vermont, you can see these blue tap lines all along the roadways. They aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as the buckets, but they are, obviously, way more efficient.

Lambing happens about the same time as sugaring, and already many lambs have made their debuts. One ewe was in labor during our sugar stay. She was surrounded by spectators, and she was having a hard time. I didn’t stick around, but I heard that she eventually got a little human help, and her lamb was born safely.


Today we are in the midst of mixed precipitation. Tomorrow it may be 60 degrees F, but rainy. Possible thunderstorms.

On Route 30 today, I saw the steam rising from some of the smaller operations.

Syrup. Spring.


1. Susan - March 31, 2008

Beautiful photos and evocative prose, IB. I had a maple syrup issue recently . . . a young man thought I gave him permission to tap my trees. I didn’t. By the time I recovered from the flu, part of the property near the house was laced in blue. NO WAY was I going to look at that all year! We reached a cordial agreement. Bye, bye, blue.

2. Bridgett - March 31, 2008

I love this country. Your spring is sugar maples; mine is sugar magnolias.

3. bettyslocombe - April 1, 2008

slaver slaver slaver

4. Helen - April 1, 2008

Blueberry pancakes… yumm…

5. Deloney - April 1, 2008

There are maple syrup festivals all over southern Ontario at the moment.

6. Mali - April 1, 2008

Wonderful to read, and educational too. Lambs are definitely a sign of spring (but in the snow? poor wee things). I never ever thought of syrup being a spring thing too.

Sigh … you’re celebrating spring – today there is a real autumnal chill in the air for the first time.

7. bettyslocombe - April 2, 2008

Isn’t it great? autumn that is: wind and rain and baked beans and semolina. In a jaffle.

8. indigobunting - April 2, 2008

Mali, Betty: The turn of the seasons is so exciting, isn’t it? I do love fall coming on…it’s just now that I live someplace with such a long winter, it’s a little more accent on the bitter than the sweet…

Helen, Del: Mmmm. Canadian maple syrup…

Bridgett: I wonder if the Dead did a song about sugar maples?

Susan: When a friend of mine bought property with trees that had often been tapped, I think there was a bit of a scuffle at the beginning. Now, though, she lets them, and they give her lots of syrup, some of which I’ve been lucky to get every year…

9. damyantig - April 3, 2008

Sugar, Spring. Both things almost alien to me, because down here we only have Summer and Rain. And I am not much of a sugar fan.

On another note, I noticed I am not on your blogroll yet…*sigh* 😦

10. indigobunting - April 4, 2008

Damyantig: You are right—I have been horribly negligent about my blog and updating things like blog rolls. I will get right on that!

And even though I love maple syrup on pancakes, etc., I am not at all a fan of maple sugar—it’s way too much for me.

I work with Japanese man who is not a sugar fan. I’ve always kind of wished I could be that way, but it’s way too late…

11. damyantig - April 4, 2008

awww…sorry Indigo, I was just being an early morning whiner….thanks for the link tho, *smiles*

If you can believe it, I like sour and bitter more than sweet!

12. indigobunting - April 4, 2008

D: There’s nothing like a good morning whine—besides, it was something I meant to do anyway!

And I can believe it, being a big fan of the bitter myself…

13. Cedar Waxwing - April 8, 2008

I’m not a huge fan of maple syrup, but I like the idea of maple syrup.

I forgot to tell you that this entry cheered me up when I saw it a while back. That lamb is so sweet.

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