Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sweet


Spring is on its way here. I know this because one of the annual rites of spring in western Massachusetts is the running of the sap. (It is nothing like the running of the bulls.....) For the couple weeks preceding when farmers "think" spring should be here, trucks are parked all along the dirt roads. There is never a person in sight but I have come to know that's because the farmers are up in the woods, hooking up their taps to their gravity fed sap lines. It's a very busy time of year for maple farmers. They work long hours for about six weeks - collecting the sap and then boiling it into the wee hours of the morning.


On Sunday, Julia begged to visit Williams Sugarhouse in nearby Deerfield. You can't live in these parts without at least one late winter visit to a "sugar shack." We partook in the blueberry pancakes.


Williams is an old-fashioned place with the huge boiler out in the back room. There are always a bunch of men there standing around, tending the sap so it doesn't burn.


Here you can see the steam from the evaporating sap.


They had a lovely collection of antique molds the family used to use for maple candy.

Gone are the days of buckets hanging on trees although once in awhile we see them. I promise a photo of this quintessential New England scene later this week. You can learn more about sugaring here. This "rite of spring" is definitely worth a visit if you live outside Boston or Hartford. It can't help but warm your heart and tummy to visit a sugarhouse.....

12 comments:

Kathy said...

I think I may need to take my kids for a field trip. Thanks for posting this!!

evie said...

Wish I lived closer. I certainly miss my maple syrup. There used to be a syrup house near my parents home in the Catskills and I would bring home a jug of syrup almost every visit.

Bridget said...

In Ohio as a kid, there were (still are!) lots of people that made maple sugar (with the buckets hung from the trees) on a relatively small scale. I did not appreciate the at the time how quaint my childhood was.

Melissa said...

I grew up on that farm! :) Sandy and his dad Milton used to boil the sap using wood, back when I was a kid. Love that place!

Stephanie said...

All I can think of when people talk about this is Laura Ingalls Wilder. :)

Turtle said...

growing up we always sugared..i miss it! My mom still taps a few trees and does it the old fashioned way, i love that folks on her mail route still give her a gallon to mail to me each year! hubby actually thought that aunt jamima was real syrup when we first met, silly boy!

Heather L. said...

I loved this post. Being born in Vermont, maple syrup runs in my veins. It's been years since I've been able to visit a sugar house in action, but I sure would love to, and I'd love to take my kids. Maybe someday.

One of my favorite chapter books for kids is Maple Sugar for Windy Foot by Franced Frost. It's about a horse and his family -- adorable. Out of print now, but it's at some libraries and for sale online.

Jo in Boston said...

I spent last weekend helping a friend up in Vernon hand buckets on maple trees--we hung about 600 buckets total. I haven't gotten back up to gather, but I hear they filled the gathering tank twice this weekend.

Suzanne said...

Growing up, I had relatives in Northern VT and there was a sugar house up in the woods. We would ride on the back of the horse drawn wagon while my uncle and cousins would put out tubing (not sure what it was called). They also used a few buckets.

mascanlon said...

Yummy, I have never seen sugaring myself but I love the "real" thing so spend lots of $$$ a couple times a year on real syrup. And I so love maple candy, the molds look well loved and used.

lisette said...

wow! i remember reading about sugaring off in laura ingalls wilder's book little house in the big woods. i'm absurdly pleased that it still happens :) and that the process doesn't seem to have changed so much in 130 years

Deborah Robson said...

Thanks for the memories. We used to tap our trees and take the sap to the sugar house in North Leverett, about a mile away.