Evidence of sun in the sugarbush

WEATHER: Finally it turned. We’ve had a stretch of sunny warm (60’s) days that drew everyone outdoors to see if the rhubarb was coming up yet, to notice a crocus blooming not in the garden where it should but under the apple tree, to pick up the pail of clothespins in one hand and a basket of laundry in the other and head for the clothesline, to listen to thuds and clanks emanating from the neighbors’ yards, to ride bicycles on Nebraska Valley Road, to sweep a winter’s worth of sand from the stone walkway, to picnic, to dump spoiled sap from buckets and knock out the cast iron taps.

Today it’s raining. The earth and I need it.

HOW’S IT RUNNING? Like Godot, the long-awaited sap surge finale never arrived. Unlike the characters in Waiting for Godot, we are no longer waiting, our time of doing nothing was finite, we’re moving on. Sugar season’s over.

Since there are six toes when there should only be five, the best guess is that this raccoon precisely overlayed one track with another, left foot over right.

BOILING STATUS: On Sunday we boiled the dregs and drabs of last week’s sap, finally making some – but hardly any – dark syrup.

SAP SWEETNESS: A weak 1.6%.

NITER STATUS: Almost none at all, as expected in late season.

WHAT’S NEXT? Visiting each tree to knock out the taps and rinse the line, sugarhouse cleanup, filling the woodshed. The RO is running its final rinse cycle as I write. The goal? To be done by late May.

NOTABLE MAPLES: Chief of Operations displays The Kingpin.

FIELD TRIP: The cemetery is behind the white church in Waterbury. You can enter it on a lane between the church and the ortho clinic (to the right of The Reservoir) or from Bridge St. The late Elise Braun introduced me to this tree several years ago. The cemetery is lovely, the tree magnifique. The photos don’t do it justice.  AC


Get going and then end

WEATHER: Yesterday, Friday April 20th, presented with 4″ of new snow.The temp ranged from 30- 33F.

Early Saturday Morning Tanka after a bleak week:

Not sullen but Sun.
Shadows of apple trees
claim the snowy bank.
No squirrels, no wind, a raven
who strikes the clapboards, retreats.

HOW’S IT RUNNING? Once again yesterday the bucket taps ran well while the tubing  taps slept. Could it be elevation, since the bucket trees are lower than all of the tubing trees?

We’re not alone in scratching our heads over why the sap hasn’t run better in April. It’s not just our trees, or our type of taps, or our micro-weather. As is always the case – but we forget –  our experience echoes someone else’s experience. Regional trends emerge. For example, most sugarers are making much lighter syrup this year than they did in 2017.


These brothers live alone out in the sticks (at the top a steep, brushy climb from Penn Station). Drawing: Ana Lucia Fernandez


What sugarmakers wish for tends to align with others’ wishes. It’s not original thinking but it can be expressed a few different ways:

“I am hoping we hit our goal and then it gets really warm and just ends it.” -Ben Wilcox of Amber Ridge Maple in Underhill.

“Hoping for closure, or at least a finale.” – Freedle, Nebraska Knoll’s social media manager

“Wish the season would get going and then end for you.” -a blog reader



Stopped by John Moffatt Sugarhouse in Craftsbury. He has around 40 buckets. He used to have 6000 buckets and 4 draft horses. Buckets have been running really well the last couple days. -TS


SEVEN DAY NITER PRIMER, Day Five:  Early and mid-season syrup filters nicely through the cones, but the niter in dark syrup clogs them up. The syrup sits in the cones and cools off.  You must lift out the cone and pour the syrup into a clean cone, then quickly rinse the niter out of the soiled one. Often the dark syrup must be transferred three or four times. Sugarmakers with this old-style filter system dread making dark syrup. That slimy niter clogs the felts so darn fast!


The six-toed wonder (not photo-shopped)


Saturday Morning Tanka, two hours later:

Snow melt pelts off the
east-facing side of the house.
There goes a whole slab.
When there’s that sheen on the snow
You know it’s sublimating.

Dear maple trees, what are you doing today?



No buds, no sap

“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”
—the oft-quoted first lines of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land



MORNING LAMENT: “Boy, high today 41. I don’t know what to do,” says Chief of Operations. “This is going to go on and on. It’s too cold to clean tubing. I was thinking we could split that wood by the truck, but it’s all frozen in still. What are we going to do, just keep those guys on hold all week?”

WEATHER, April 16th: More freezing drizzle tinkled from the sky overnight, filling in any remaining brown cracks on the ground with tiny white ball bearings. It’s one notch less gray today than it was all weekend. [poor grammar alert] Who wants to go outside? Not me. Who wants to volunteer to start a fire in the wood stove? Not me. Who wants to write a blog post? Not me. Who wants to know what to tell the crew about when to come in next? I do.

We did boil on Saturday, boiling the drizzles of sap collected over a few days. Thinking it might be the last day, Ana dressed up for work, then covered her finery with an Eddie Bean jacket featuring 28 pockets. [See National Lampoon, November 1973 issue]

Closure. That’s what eludes us. We have scarcely boiled in April. Even on thaw days, the sap hasn’t run. Last week we waited for a thaw day, then when it still didn’t run, we hoped for an even warmer day. We wished it wouldn’t rain since rain tends to kill a run. We wonder now if this past weekend’s snow will revive the sap flow. We hope for more syrup; the crew wants work. The minute we declare the season over, there’s no shortage of work. But the buds are still tight, the hills aren’t red yet.


HOW’S THE SKIING? Fabulous, both Alpine and x-c. Those ball bearings make for swift skimming on skis over a woodland magic carpet. It’s getting out the door that’s tough.



Long-time sugarhouse nymph Emma, who grew up down the road a bit, writes from college in North Carolina:

“I wish I was there boiling.

In an effort to educate the Southern population about liquid gold, I’ve been spamming the entire Davidson club soccer team’s email list with Maple Syrup Facts of the Day. In response to my generous (albeit widely unrequited) provision of this knowledge, one of my friends sent me this:”

[Sistine Chapel fresco The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, oft-parodied]

This Magnificent Tree, Fred Rogers and Dr. Seuss

This blog mirrors sugar season in that there’s no predicting what course it will take each year. Imagine my surprise and delight in finding the following unsolicited blog offering in my mailbox this morning.


Christian (crew ’15 and ’16) writes:

a poem inspired by this magnificent tree, fred rogers and dr. seuss.

seven score years and seventeen
a long time for a thing it seems
ne’er tapped or toppled nor woodsman gleaned
escaped the paper factory ream

from summer thrush
to winter finch
every year a quarter inch
it perseveres through rain and snow
and frozen arctic winds that blow
up here it sits where no one goes
nature’s statue
all alone

i beg you all to take a walk
and ponder all things leaf and stalk
imagine if these trees could talk
“i’d like to see a different rock”

if trees could walk
where would they go
to the rivers down below
or way up high
a lofty peak
what kind of places would they seek

dip its roots in for a swim
hike the long trail on a whim
or brave the desert’s dusty air
to sniff a cactus flower there

would it leave us all behind
to find itself a warmer clime
“catch you all on island time”
margarita and a lime

i’d like to think just for a day
this mighty tree could get away
but at its post it chose to stay
to guard the hill another day



Carly and the Lorax.


FIELD TRIP: Christian says, “[The Lorax] is  right next to whatever contraption is left at the top of the old t-bar (or ancient rope tow) at the Toll House, on the weird loop that they still mow that isn’t connected to any other trail, between Toll Road and the Derby.”


Global Energy Cookies

Who ever turns down the offer of a good homemade cookie? No one I know.

Maple Trout Lilli writes:

Notice how sunlight passing through pure, fresh VT maple syrup, casts an amber glow onto the plate of these Global Energy Cookies? Eat more syrup and ignite a glow from within!

Another recipe from the cookbook Run Fast. Eat Slow., was created for dedicated long-distance trail runners, as an antidote to “bonking” during long runs.  All ingredients are gluten free, vegan, dairy free, unprocessed and most importantly……. nutritious and delicious.

These cookies have proven to get one further down the trail and they’d certainly be a great way to start or supplement: hikes, ski adventures, sugar’n (stoking & toting), cutting firewood, etc.   Heck, they’re so tasty you might want to have some within reach while sitting in a comfortable chair while soaking up some spring sunshine.

Depending on individual taste and desire to support you favorite local sugar maker; adjust liquid ingredients accordingly.

Enjoy, smile and charge on!



3 cups old fashioned, gluten free rolled oats
1 cup almond meal or almond flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pureed sweet potato (see note below)
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup raisins


Preheat oven 350. Line a baking sheet w/parchment paper.

In bowl of food processor or blender, pulse oats 5-6 times until roughly chopped. Place in a large mixing bowl and combine with almond flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sweet potato puree, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla and raisins until well combined Fold into oat mixture and stir until blended. Dough will be thick.

Use ¼ cup measuring cup to drop the batter onto baking sheet. Space 1” apart and press down lightly to slightly flatten.

Bake in center of oven for 20-25 min until bottoms are deep gold brown.

Sweet Potato Puree – Bake at 400 for 45 -60 min., cool, remove skin and mash w/a fork.


[Editor’s Note:  It seems that for Christmas MTL’s daughter Anna gave her a copy of Run Fast. Eat Slow. and proposed to the family that they sign up for the Vermont City Marathon (in Burlington, May 27th).  The idea took hold; MTL and gang are training for the half-marathon. Checking the website, there are 46 days of training and cookies until the big day.  AC]


QUICK SUGARING UPDATE: Nothing is happening here. The trees sleep, the crew has cat scratch fever. What we need is a jolt of warmth.