Wrap Up

Quote

“Sugar season 2017 is officially over,” declared Chief of Operations on Sunday.

the sugarhouse gleams again;

What he means is that we released the trees and thanked them;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the gloves got their moment in the sun before being stuffed into a pillow case to protect them from the sugarhouse mice until next February;

 

 

(couldn’t resist)

 

 

 

 

 

 

the RO “diapers” lined up for their spring airing;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe split wood

and Chief of Operations compiled the annual chart of stats to mount on the back wall of the sugarhouse.

while Ross stacked (we finished May 11th, a personal best);

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Look Back: As always happens, we learned that our season was similar to that of sugarers on the other side of Mt. Mansfield and in the rest of our county, Lamoille County. Some made syrup in January (not, and probably never, us). Everyone made a lot of syrup in February, relatively little in March, and we all ended the season with a whopper of a run ca. April 8-11. Was it a good year? Yes, we nod, but not as good as last year. What about grade? Well, for us it was the Year of Light Amber Rich; I can’t speak for others.

Did we break any of our records? Yes, in two categories.

2017 beat out 2016 by one day in the category “Longest Season” which we measure as the first through the last day of boiling. The dates? February 20 – April 11 for a total of 51 days.

2017 also beat out 2016 by five days in the category “Earliest Start.” This year, February 20; last year, February 25.

For me it takes some of the fizz out of the experience to compare Nebraska Knoll’s season with that of other sugarmakers. When someone asks “How was your season?”, all the uncertainty, the waiting, the worry, the adrenaline rushes, the pots of coffee, the giggling fits, the syrup spills, the filter press woes, the bass beat emanating rom the boom box, the stoking gloves wrapped in duct tape, the sagging faces of the stokers, the filthy ash-cleaning wool hat hanging on its peg, the aroma of ham and scalloped potatoes, the play within this play called Waiting for Lorenzo, the steam, the clank of the stovebox door being jerked open, and the sticky rooster-shaped timer set at 8 minutes between stokes – all as ephemeral as the spring beauties – reside within my response “It was good.”

It was very good.

Now, dear readers, the long-like-this-season phase of the blog ends, but the blog door stays ajar. Thanks for clicking or tapping this way, and as I have said other years, “For goodness sake turn off those marvelous digital devices and get outside.”

Blog Staff:
Photography: Chief of Operations
Food correspondent: Maple Trout Lilli
Artist in residence: Ana Lucia Fernandez
Contributing photographers: Tom and Laurie Silva and the crew
Contributing writers: Sarah Bailey, Joe Renish, Chief of Operations
Supporting Cast: The Crew
Senior Editor: AC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salade de printemps

Next we hear from Maple Trout Lilli who writes:

Here’s a recipe I found online for a delicious, bold take on asparagus.   It’s hearty enough for a light dinner and the crisp, sweet caramelized scallions are delicious paired with the asparagus.  Bon appétit.

SPRING SALAD

  • ¼ cup farro or any grain really
  • 2 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated on a Microplane or minced
  •  Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 1 bunch asparagus (1 pound), woody ends trimmed
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 5 ounces), halved lengthwise and crosswise to form 2-inch-long ribbons
  • 3 ounces (3 cups) salad greens, such as baby arugula
  •  Pecorino or mild cheddar

PREPARATION

  1. Bring a small pot of heavily salted water to a boil, stir in farro, cover, and simmer until al dente, 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together 2 teaspoons soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, and pinch salt and pepper. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons oil, whisking constantly.
  3. Drain farro and stir immediately into dressing while still warm.
  4. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread asparagus and scallions over a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle liberally with oil, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to combine, then arrange in a single layer. Roast until they start to char in spots, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly: The asparagus are best while still a little warm but not hot enough to wilt the greens.

-MTL

 

 

 

 

Monday Buds

To celebrate the conclusion of the 2017 Sugaring Project at Nebraska Knoll, the blog will feature the equivalent of a Fireworks Finale.

First let’s start with the trees without which there would be no sugaring project.

Here is the most recent painting of sugar maple buds by Ana Lucia.

Flowers emerge from the tips. Watercolor by Ana Lucia Fernandez.

A retrospective:

Watercolor by Ana Lucia Fernandez

 

Sugar maple buds.
Drawing by Ana Lucia Fernandez

 

Thank you, Ana Lucia.

 

 

Sunday Buds and Maple as Leader

Here is a new painting by crew member Ana Lucia that shows how buds look when they have just popped, in this case shortly after the final boiling day.

Popped sugar maple buds, ca. 4/15/17. Painting by Ana Lucia Fernandez

Compare the popped buds with the tight buds of March.

Sugar maple buds.
Drawing by Ana Lucia Fernandez

It seems right to print once again the story of how First Nation citizens revere the maple as leader of the trees.

The Maple Tree

The following is a small piece of the Iroquois Creation Story, as told to Audrey in Nova Scotia by a woman who is a member of the Mohawk Nation, August 2004.

Sky Woman (Grandmother Moon) came to this world pregnant. She gave birth to Original Woman (Mother Earth). Original Woman ended up sacrificing herself in childbirth so that life on earth could begin.

After her death, Original Woman was placed in the ground:

  1. From her head grew tobacco that it might be burned and be the visible representation of our thoughts and prayers to the Spirit World (helpers) and the Great Mystery.
  2. From her heart grew the heart berry (strawberry) that we would have blood, family connections, seeds and a connection to the earth (natural world).
  3. From her body grew the Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash), the main sustenance of the Iroquois.
  4. From her lower body grew the Maple Tree. The Maple Tree provides us with sweet cleansing water.

The Maple Tree is the leader of all trees. It leads by example and shows the trees how to work with Mother Earth and the seasons – when the sap will flow, when to bud, when to unfurl, when to seed, when to color, when to fall and when to begin again. The only element that all life needs is water. The Maple stands to teach us to respect and care for our water, as it is a sacred gift. The Iroquois believe that each stand of maples has a head female and a head male tree. These two are often the oldest amongst the stand of trees.

To this day, the Iroquois recognizes and honors the Maple as a leader and holds a ceremony at tapping/syrup time to remember how important the Maple is to our life, how it came as a gift to the People from Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, Sky World, and the Great Mystery.

Ephemerals Fest

Yellow violets. They come in white too.

 

Dutchman’s Breeches  (This blog editor’s favorite)

 

Red trillium classic. Photo credit: Tom Silva

 

A red trillium struggling to unfurl.

 

Coltsfoot is an alien plant, the first wildflower to bloom in spring – but not in the sugarbush. This photo was taken near the sap shed. Coltsfoot grows in waste places and on roadsides. The flower blooms before the leaves come out. It’s the big green leaves that give the plant its name.

 

Spring Peeper on Porch. “Otter the cat is bugging me.” Photo credit: Tom Silva

 

How many white pails does it take to make a gallon of maple syrup?  Study this photo for 15 seconds, leave to get a glass of water in the kitchen, then close your eyes and name 10 items from the photo.

 

 

The Ephemerals: Spring Beauties

This year the blog will revive its photo celebration of the northern hardwoods ephemerals, the flowers that bloom on the forest floor after the last sap run and before the canopy fills in and shuts out the sunlight.

Here is the front of a card created and printed by neighbor Heather Hale on one of her historic presses. Since it is a letterpressed card, if you were to run your fingers over it you’d feel how the tiny type has indented the textured paper. For each creation, Heather chooses paper texture, weight, size, and color; font and font size; ink; which press to use – and much more I am too ignorant to mention. Her layout here perfectly evokes the ephemerals.

 

 

Flip over the card and see this at the bottom:

 

And here are the Spring Beauties:

 

 

[Except where credited, all blog photos are by Chief of Operations.]

 

 

Saturday afternoon at the opera

April 22. It is a Saturday afternoon in late April, eleven days out from the final boiling day, and all seems familiar. Wild leeks near the Keystone line are poking up 3-4″. Spring beauty buds are tight today but won’t be for long. Witch hobble blossoms and leaves are greening up at the edges. Falls Brook swells with rain; spring freshets chase down to it and will for a little while longer. Mrs. Raven still sits in her nest; Mr. Raven fusses. The sugarbush feels poised for the burst of abundant life.

Familiar too is noting the progress of the woods crew in knocking out taps and rinsing lines. They carry five-gallons of water on their backs to squirt into the tubing at each tap, refilling their backpack tanks at the freshets or at springs. It has been good working weather for the most part: cool, with no remaining rotten snow to wallow in.

As I hiked up to find leeks I recalled that today is Earth Day. At a lecture this winter I learned of the findings of forestry research, how trees network with each other via fungal systems, how they cooperate. Ecologists are modifying the old model of trees competing for resources; it seems they share! I feel so encouraged by news of the example forests have set for us all along.  http://e360.yale.edu/features/exploring_how_and_why_trees_talk_to_each_other.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON AT THE OPERA

During the long boil of April 10th, Joe, Ana Lucia, and I brainstormed ideas for an opera to be called The Work with the Sap.

We thought we’d set the scene through a depiction of some of the lowly tasks of the sugarhouse crew. Ana Lucia ( A.L. Fernandez) volunteered to write the libretto. She retreated to a secluded beach in Mexico and just sent this early draft:

El labor de la mañana (The labor of the dawn) (To be sung by the ensemble)
Nos despertamos temprano y nos preparamos para el día que nos trae la savia.
Quita la miel de ayer, ponlo en cubetas, raspa la orillas, echa agua, y aspira.
Ahora nada más falta empezar el fuego y limpiar el de desastre que hicimos.
We wake up early and prepare for the day the Sap brings us.
Remove the syrup from yesterday, put it in buckets, scrape the sides, add water, and vacuum.
Now all we need to do is start the fire and clean the disaster we made.
Migración de los barriles  (The migration of the drums from the sugarhouse to another building)  (Quartet for bass, baritone, tenor, and contralto)
El trabajo que más nos encanta.
Los barriles pesados nos ven de la esquina con una mirada de burla.
Son una muestra de nuestro trabajo largo de los días anteriores.
Te sientes fuerte hoy?
The job we love most.
The heavy drums look at us from the corner with a taunting look.
They are a show of our long work of the days before.
Do you feel strong today?

Drumroll, please. Photo credit: Laurie Silva

Primero, Segundo, Tercero, Cuarto (bass and soprano duet)

Es tiempo de llenar los 40 gallones de miel recién hecha.
Primero, baja los barriles sin que te aplasten.
Segundo, mete agua caliente sin que te quemes.
Tercero, dale vueltas sin que te canses.
Cuarto, saca el agua sin que te salpiques.
Ahora sí estás listo para llenarlo!
It’s time to fill the 40 gallons of fresh syrup.
First, bring down the drums without them smashing you.
Second, fill them with hot water without burning yourself.
Third, roll them around without tiring yourself out.
Fourth, take out the water without splashing yourself.
Now you’re ready to fill it!

The source of tension, altercations, and murderous intentions in The Work with the Sap is the hydrometer, innocently reposing here in the elegant hydrometer cup.

Everyone will get to sing about encounters with it. Here is our powerful tenor, Ross.


The soprano’s turn to check and adjust the density. Over? Under? Quick, the syrup’s backing up in the finish trough!

More exasperating is quickly and efficiently checking the density of syrup built up in the storage tank prior to drumming or bottling. Joe, our bass, deliberates before comparing the reading he gets (Brix scale) with the density chart.

The aria for this trio goes on for twenty minutes explaining how it takes three people twenty minutes to agree on a hydrometer reading, while a mad woman cries (coloratura here) through the steam.  Photo credit: Laurie Silva