Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The ordinary is extraordinary in VT: maple sugar taps

Many of you, at least in the northeastern part of the United States know that Vermont is well known for its maple sugar. In march of every year when the days start to get at or above freezing and the nights are still cold, the sap in the sugar maples run. Maple sugaring is still very much alive and well in the northeast kingdom, as it is in other sections of Vermont.

Maple syrup comes from a stand of Maple trees, usually Sugar Maples, known as a sugar bush. I say my first and only sugar bush when I was fourteen, I won't tell you how many years ago that was. I was with my Dad and my Great-Uncle John in his wood plot on some land he owned on the side of the mountain adjoining the Lake. Uncle John had on old jeep that he used in Vermont, the type of jeeps that you might have seen in movies about World War II except it was gray and not olive drab. There was an old woods road that he could use to access his land from one of the town gravel roads.

Uncle John's idea was to cut a road from the old woods road down to the highway so he would be able to access his land. By this time, Uncle John was in almost seventy. My Dad and I went along to help him on this task that took about three days. I had a great time, by the way. Uncle John had an old chain saw that he used and I cleared brush and perhaps hacked away at smaller trees with a hatchet or a camp axe.

As we drove along this old woods road the first day, Uncle John pointed out a sugar bush owned by one of the local farmers complete with taps (in the trees) and tubing. I thought this was pretty neat.

I have tried without too much success to find this old road, all these years later, including a concerted effort about twenty-five years ago with no luck. Uncle John sold his land in the woods to his younger brother before he died. Uncle John got sick with what we know now as post-polio syndrome a couple of years later. For he had polio in one of the polio epidemics in the first part of the twentieth century when he was about ten. I don't think that he ever used the road that we built down to the highway, but I had a lot of fun and remember the sugar bush.

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