It’s the first of January, our thoughts are turning to tapping our sugarbush and the sugar house once again looks like a disaster zone.
The chaos is once again in the sugar house as we begin to improve our operations. The arch is torn apart and the pieces create paths through the sugar house. This year we bought a new air- tight door and blower for our arch. The arch is a frame that contains the firebox and supports the pans we use to boil sap make syrup. The new air-tight front will make the boiling more efficient by using less wood, which is a natural and renewable resource for us.
We also bought 2 new front pans ( there are 2 pans on the rig, a smaller front pan and a much larger rear pan). By having 2 front pans where the sap is the most concentrated while cooking we can switch the pans out and clean one while using the other.
The change is tapping in January, this is directly tied to the seasonal changes occurring here. When I was young ( I’m talking 25 years ago), we tapped during winter vacation – this is the end of February until the first Wednesday in March ( the day after town meeting which here in Vermont is considered a holiday). Due to weather pattern changes we are tapping up to six weeks earlier and making syrup a month before we use to. Its change, so far it doesn’t seem to be a huge issue as far as being able to produce maple syrup. I admit, When we tap in January we’re not fighting with huge amounts of snow, so it goes so much faster and easier. I can’t view that as a negative.
Blog June 12 2014 Gone with Orpha Many things remind me of my grandmother Orpha Coons Smith, cooking and gardening are definitely the two biggest. Looking back I realize Grammie Orpha(1) was a worker. A friend once said “I always enjoyed talking to her and I always learned something from her, but if you wanted to talk to her you could expect to follow her along with whichever project she was doing and you’d probably end up working too.” Orpha graduated high school then went to work in Laconia NH for a couple of sisters as their cook (2), she worked there until she and Hue married when she was 27. Besides the three boys they had they also had hired men that worked for Hue and lived with them. They also had various kids board there while they went to school (that’s another story). At various times she also went to some of the logging camps with Hue as camp cook starting in Cold Hollow in Enosburg Vt. Doughnuts were what she was most remembered for. My favorite story is of Hue losing his cook around the summer of 1964….. Mr. Smith was from Massachusetts, he and his family owned a summer camp at B Pond in Maine.(3) He asked Hue if he knew a good cook, Hue replied “yes one of the best, my wife”. Orpha went to work for them that summer then went to Massachusetts that fall with them. She continued working for several summers after that. Hue wasn’t so quick to offer her cooking skills after that. Back at home Orpha used syrup not just in food but to create maple products. She made maple cream, maple candy, maple sugar and maple vinegar and every spring Grammie made us sugar on snow. In 1967 Orpha bought a mail order syrup business from Jack Jennys’ of Richford (4) and contributed to grow the business for years. She had a store route that took us from local shops to the Lake Champlain Islands in the summer time to a yearly trip to New Jersey to a cousins fruit stand. I spent many an hour in the back of the van. On the return trips I had a mattress (the days before seat belts! ) to lay on. Our trips to the Islands always included a stop at the beach for a picnic lunch. The best part was you never really knew when you’d get home and you never went the same way. To this day I will end up on a back road the middleof nowhere and realize it somehow still looks familiar. Another friend once summed up a trip in the van with Orpha, “I used to leave my husband a note saying what time I left, where we were going , and what time we were due home. We never left on time always ended up somewhere else and you never knew what time you’d be home. I learned to leave a new note. Gone with Orpha”
(1) my grandparents were most often referred to by first name- even by their closest family, I think they were both such well known local people that everyone knew them by name and they didn’t need further clarification as to who they were) (2) her uncle Lee Miner went to work in the Laconia areabafter the hurricane of 1937 went through clearing down trees he found the work for her while was there (3) my father took me to B Pond years later, we met Mrs. Smith who was in her 90s at that point and would have been the same age as Orpha. She spoke of the way Orpha took a city girl under her wing and showed her the North Woods of Maine. She said she taught her to drive stick and they would take the boat to the middle of the lake towatch the aurora borealis. Her son took pride in showing us around the lodge, especially the doughnut flipper still in the kitchen that Orpha had used so many times. (4) both of my grandfather’s Hue Smith and Delwin Britch sold syrup to Jack Jennys prior to Orpha buying the business.
A picture is worth a thousand words but if you could add in sight and sound the pleasure would triple. The air is heavy with the scent of the old fashioned lilacs and fresh cut grass. The air is filled with birds of all varieties chirping and chattering. We currently have active robin, tree swallow and bluebird nests, you can here the babies as you walk near. It’s so enjoyable to just stop, listen, and look. Just dont’t stand to close to the hummingbird feeders unless you prepared for a fly by! #vermont#nature