Hungry Squirrels and Sapline Repair..

Two friends from growing up in southern Vermont, Ian and Charlie, spent a weekend here not long ago. Ian had some dried Cherry lumber that he needed planed for a floor of a “rustic Cabin” he is building , and he offered to help get my saplines in the sugarwoods in “good order” for a trade. Charlie tagged along to hang out with friends (I had not seen him since we were best men at Ian’s wedding) and provide the extra set of hands that would be needed in the work.

They came up on a Saturday with snow flurries blowing in, and a warm fire in my own cabin. This cabin I built in the sugarwoods is a small stopping place, 8×12 feet big, and has been a fun place to have a picnic in the summer, or get warmed up while snowshoeing in the winter. Or for my friends to take a break while helping with my saplines! It is built on the four corner stones of an ancient sugarhouse, which was gone long before I arrived.

The cabin, with new porch!

The cabin is heated by an old train caboose stove. The little stove has a lip around the top that kept the train’s crew coffee cups from sliding off as the train moved and it has the letters “If you like me, tell others“stamped on the top. I usually have a pot of water on the stove for hot chocolate, tea, or cleaning out dishes. That weekend, while others worked outside, the farmer with lame shoulder (me) cooked lunch on the stove. It was just butchered beef, made into hamburgers, with hot dogs added for variety.

While waiting for lunch, Wesley and Wyatt were kept busy hauling firewood from its seasoning pile in the field next to the hanger, down to the house. They use our John Deere 4×6 Gator….not too hard a duty.

Charlie and Ian got to work on the sap lines. Getting the sugarwoods in “good order” entails walking along the main lines (1″ black pipe) and looking for lateral lines (5/16″ blue pipe) that have been broken or become disconnected, and are lying on the ground. These lines often are brought down by an errant moose, a falling tree, or a hungry squirrel looking for any left over sweet sap in the tubing. Charlie would take up the slack of the lateral line by pulling tension on it toward the main line, while Ian would snip off the damaged ends and reconnect them using the tubing tool.

Ian repairing drop line

Charlie stretching line

They finished the whole sugarwoods by dark and we spent the evening eating venison stew, Elmore bakery bread, salad and Woodchuck “winter” hard cider, followed by a rousing  round of the “Settlers of Catan” board game and billiards. When we had finished the last game (long past normal bedtime) Ian and Charlie retired to the little cabin in the woods, and the boys, the dog, and I headed upstairs at the farmhouse.

After  a way too short night of sleep, followed by an excellent breakfast of baked tortillas ( bacon, egg, potato, kale garlic,onion, cheese and salsa), we milled and  planed the cherry. I have a 30″ planer that works well on rough cut lumber. The shavings from the planer makes great nesting material for the chickens, bedding for animals and good for aerating the compost pile. We loaded up Ian’s truck with the freshly planed lumber along with a drum of my maple syrup. He hopes he will need the extra syrup to supplement his syrup sales during the holidays, and he headed south to Newfane, and Charlie to Hinesburg.

Ian ready for work, Charlie ready for hunting season

It was a fine and productive weekend. The squirrels that nibble my lines could not get the better of us ( I am fooling myself….I am sure I will be cleaning out all of their winter’s nests in the sugarhouse while preparing  for boiling). Mother nature, who helped bring down the tree limbs, started us off with snow and ended up the weekend close to 50 degrees! Ian will have a fine cherry floor, and we all ended with full bellies and fond memories.

Thanksgiving Day Blog from last year, Save travels, and good eats.

And I didn’t send all my syrup away with Ian – I still have plenty for your holidays and gifts. Check out what products are available and how to contact me at the farm’s website:


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