Quick Work With a Torch (an arson-free visit to the sugarhouse)

Saturday was Maple Festival in Cabot. There was a pancake breakfast with local sugarmakers’ syrup set out in a row of pitchers for sample comparisons. Anson Tebbetts was operating the Vermont sugarmakers’ new sugar shack making sugar on snow. Local craft vendors filled the Cabot school gymnasium with maple and non-maple related crafts. Raven’s Claw Forge was demonstrating blacksmithing techniques using my grandfather’s forge – my own forging is now limited to straightening gutter cleaning paddles. There were horse drawn wagon rides and lumber carving. This is Cabot’s way of kicking off the open sugar house day.

Aaron Bushey working at the forge

All around Cabot (and around the state) sugarmakers opened up their sugarhouses to visitors. My sugarhouse was buzzing with people, kids, and maple syrup all afternoon – even though it is close to half a mile off the very muddy town road so the visitors I get have to really want to be there.

A frozen night the night before and an absolutely gorgeous warm, sunny day had the sap flowing like crazy. The sap puller was pulling 17 inches of suction so the sap was coming into the holding tank almost as fast as I could boil it. This was really the first day that I felt good about the way the sap puller aided in my operation, probably due to the extra work put into the sap lines and new fittings in.

I had a wide variety of visitors showing up on antique snow machines, snowshoes, sleds and skis; there was a marine biologist and his family from Woods Hole, a veterinarian from Delaware visiting home, a local dairy farmer / sugar maker, two local authors, friends, neighbors and my family.

sun filtering through steam

These folks were a big help to have around, and at the same time it’s hard to keep track of everything in the sugarhouse when it’s full of people. My visitors helped wood firing the arch, grading the syrup, canning the syrup, checking main lines for leaks, mapping out and counting taps in the woods and bringing down sugar wood with the snow machine. We ate biscuits and syrup, Swedish pancakes, hot dogs with ketchup mustard and maple syrup, chips and salsa, and popcorn. Kids were playing hide and seek in and out of the sugar house. And there was a lot of talking – there must have been ten different discussions going on at once and I couldn’t keep track of all my conversations.

When everything is running in the sugarhouse it’s like a system and when I’m there by myself I can sense the parts of the system, how it’s running, what it smells like, how it sounds, but when people are there you lose those senses. So we were off to a bumpy start when a chunk of ice lodged in the drain valve of the main sap tank and I didn’t realize it until everything was boiling fast and all of a sudden the sap supply was shut off. Quick work with a torch and a pole inserted in the drain of the sap tank averted near disaster. As one visitor pointed out, I’m not the first sugarer to make that mistake – he’d done the same thing with frozen sap a few years before.

In the end,  the sap ran well, the sap puller worked, the boiling went well, the inventory showed I had more taps than I thought, I was surrounded by people, I sold a tenth of what I’ve made for syrup, and I ended exhausted and thinking ‘This was a fantastic day.’

If you want to order syrup e-mail me at wameden@gmail.com. I sell at $45 a gallon, $30 a half gallon, $20 a quart, and $12 a pint. Or, in the summer, purchase it from Dancing Carrot Farm.

I’m collecting pictures of all the different foods I’m seeing this season that use maple syrup – if you’ve seen interesting ways fresh syrup is being used, send me a picture and I’ll put it up in a future post.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s