|Party In The Maple Sugar Camp|
Eastman Johnson, c. 1861-66
In addition to the streams and rivers, which are on the rise here now because of the melting snow, the other thing that begins to run rapidly this time of year in New Hampshire and Vermont is the sap--maple sap, that is. It started to run here in our neck of the woods about three days ago.
There is never any guarantee of how long the sap run will last, or how it might fluctuate during the course of maple sugaring season. It's possible for a farmer on one side of town to have a great sugaring year while his neighbor, on the other side of town, barely captures a trickle. The flow of sap is all tied to the temperature of the days as they relate to the nights, the altitude where your stand of maple tress decided to set down their roots, and a hundred-and-one mostly superstitious reasons that farmers have been making mental notes about for generation after generation.
In our little village there are a lot of sugar shacks per capita. There are certainly more sugar shacks than there are places to sell syrup; we have exactly one store. The sugar shacks range in size from some pretty large operations (one has even won the coveted "best syrup in New Hampshire" award) to some very small "sheds" that can barely accommodate a single person. And, I'm not even counting any of the family hobby stuff that happens on top of the kitchen stove or over a hot bonfire on a Saturday afternoon.
|Eric Grenier's Tidy Little Sugar Shack|
|Chuck Hardwick and son Henry|
It's true, however, that many small farmers, like Chuck Hardwick in our town, still do it the old-fashioned, picturesque way. Chuck puts out about 300-400 sap buckets every year and relies on his wife, son, and anyone who wants an authentic rural experience to help him out. And, there are still some farmers around here who take "old-fashioned" to the extreme and use teams of oxen or horses to haul the collected sap to the sugar house.
|Chuck Feeds the Fire|
|Randall Oxen, Lewis and Clark, pull a scoot loaded with sap|
back to the sugar house
This weekend, March 19th and 20th, is New Hampshire Maple Producers open house weekend where sugar houses all over the state will be open to the public. For more details, click here.