On Ice

The week of the ice.

The week of the ice

WEATHER: Gray and calm, with the temp arcing from 31.5 F to 40 back to 31.5 at suppertime. The fields are bare of snow, but the sugarbush retains a base.

HOW’S IT RUNNING? Not well today, although the vacuum pump is on.

BOILING STATUS:   The first boil of the season occurred on Thursday night, Feb. 25th as the predicted heavy rain yielded to snow and cold.

The deer slip slide away too.

The deer slip slide away too.

CRASH SECTION:  I can’t tell you what went badly or what went well that night since I wasn’t there. Sugar season 2016  changed in an instant on Tuesday when I fell while ice skating on Waterbury Reservoir and broke my left wrist. That was five long days ago: I have settled into the reality, the pain is settling out, and it is finally settled with the orthopedics team that I will report for repair surgery on March 8th.

Oh, but I flew over the ice. Then my blade must have caught a crack. It happened so fast, of course. I took off my mitten and knew right away. My friend and I skated a mile back to the car, past an ice fishing family who were tending a couple holes.


I can blog with one hand; I can drink sap. Others will do the boiling and scrubbing, the cooking and carrying.

Saturday sparkled. This is Larry, who advised me to skate on Tuesday before the rain and snow ruined the good ice.

Saturday sparkled. This is Larry, who spread the word early Tuesday about the four miles of fabulous skating ice on the reservoir.  “Get it before the snow does, ” he emailed.  


Rabbit, rabbit

Rabbit, rabbit






Anemic Winter

Looking out the window this morning toward the hillside, I see snow and bare ground splotched erratically. The driveway is dull with gray ice. For you far-flung readers, here is a quote from NOAA’s forecast that repeats week after week like a mantra:

THE BROKEN ELBOW. We started collecting sap at 1 pm Saturday night, but at 6 am the tanks were empty. Here is why. The repair took two hours. There's always something.

THE BROKEN ELBOW. We started collecting sap at 1 am Saturday night, but at 6 am the tanks were empty. Here is why. The repair took two hours. It’s beginning to feel like sugar season.

Wednesday: Snow and sleet likely before noon, then rain and sleet likely between noon and 2 pm, then rain after 2 pm. New snow and sleet accumulation of less than a half inch possible.”
[Wednesday night and Thursday: Rain]
Thursday night: Rain likely before 11 am, then rain and snow likely between 11 pm and midnight, then snow likely after midnight. Accumulation a tenth to a quarter of an inch.”

Then we enter a deep freeze for a few days. The remnant of old snow in the woods hardens again into a death crust, the thaw trickles on Falls Brook Lane turn to ice, and Wayne the plow guy who has no work calls the sand truck.

If only all that rain were snow….

Falls Brook detail

Falls Brook detail


What is this underachieving winter doing to sugar season? Stories drip in of so-and-so who has already made 500 gallons, of guys who boiled in December. We just don’t know, of course. In our case, we waited until February to tap and completed it in record time due to easy cruising in the woods.

Big Boy Ice at Bingham Falls

Big Boy Ice at Bingham Falls




Saturday Chores


Two people transferred boxes of new syrup jugs
from a Chevy van to the loft of the sugarhouse,
then cleared off the counter to make room for tools.
They then wriggled the front and back pans into place over the firebox
in eighteen deliberate steps,
using twenty-nine different tools.

Then one person found the hose and hooked it up to the outdoor faucet.
Another person swept out the upper sap tanks,
then thawed the drains with a blowtorch,
while still another gathered white snow in a white pail
and climbed into the lower sap shed tank.

While she scoured the tank with clumps of snow,
one person sanded the steps leading to the sugarhouse
and another hosed down the upper tanks,
then disconnected the hose.

Then one person inserted the main lines,
dripping sap,
into the vacuum pump room
in eighteen deliberate steps,
using a different set of
twenty-nine tools.

Another climbed up into the wood shed to the rafters. He rearranged the chunks of wood to create a hole through to the sugarhouse, then he heaved a few chunks through the hole. They clunked onto the floor in front of the firebox.

Still another filled the back and front pans with water,
then she lit a fire with the chunks and boiled the water
to clean the pans one last time before the sap comes.
This she calls a mock boil.

Meanwhile, someone else entirely changed the blog header.

Late in the afternoon, Joe and Tom Silva stopped by to borrow taps and buckets for the trees they tap down on Miller Brook. Everyone stopped working.

Tom told us about a sight he saw one frosty dawn recently while riding in a school bus near Danville en route to a ski meet.

I heard him say he saw an orange sun pillar topped with a golden arc, at each end of which shimmered a rainbow twinkling with ice crystals.