Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sugaring Boils Down to Teamwork

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sugaring Boils Down to Teamwork

Article excerpt

Surely every rural community can claim retired farmers like our friend Rich. He buzzes about on back roads in a rusted Toyota with his rat terrier, Sparky, gazing out the window. A bee helmet and veil rest on the dusty back seat. Though almost 80, Rich still raises a few vegetables and gladioli for local farmers' markets and freely gives away the seconds. Routinely, Rich phones my husband merely to chat and check up on farm life.

This winter, the cold dawdled and the snow continued to fall. Rich called nightly, the exasperation of cabin fever registering in his voice. He asked if the sap was running, that first hint of spring. Repeatedly, Rich reminded my husband, John, that he'd boiled syrup in the past for a friend and knew how to run an evaporator. John assured Rich that he could be part of the process once the sap flowed.

At last, the mercury reached 32 degrees F., the sun shone, and rivers of melted snow rutted our driveway. John and I hauled out the sap buckets and loaded up the bobsled. Snow still topped our boots, but the trees had awakened. Sap flowed as John drilled holes and I tapped in spiles. That evening, John informed Rich that soon he could help boil.

I helped collect sap the next afternoon in between packing for a weekend conference. I flew off on a mild morning, fretting. While the weather forecast ensured a flawless flight, it also meant that John would be burdened with all the farm chores, from feeding baby goats to coping with sugaring. The plentiful sunshine would bring a heavy flow of sap.

And it did. Gallons and gallons of sweet sap gushed from the trees as the sun warmed the earth. Rich's Toyota rattled up to the sugarhouse, and Sparky jumped out.

Rich sent John off to the woods to haul in the sap, while he threw wood into the raging fire beneath the evaporator. The two worked in tandem all weekend.

Before leaving, I had left soups and stew in the freezer, food that John could easily warm up, but the pace of the weekend labors consumed his thoughts. …

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