Better late than never

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(Host) Commentator Edith Hunter says that sugaring has been slow this year. It’s left her plenty of time to reflect on the yields of past years, and the human impulse to wage war.

(Hunter) This will be one of the latest, possibly one of the shortest, and surely the most off-again-on-again maple sugar seasons in years. First it was too cold and then it was too warm and then too cold again.

I began sugaring in Weathersfield in 1970, but my first regular records only go back to1977. That year I began an annual Weathersfield Maple Sugar Round-up for our little weekly paper, the Weathersfield Weekly. I reported on every sugar maker that I knew about in Weathersfield, from the smallest backyard 4th grade entrepreneur with 10 taps, to the large producers like Willis Wood and the Dana Brothers with thousands of taps.

I find that my earliest date for tapping was February 21, 1998 when I put in 34 taps. That season ended on March 29, when it was 70, by which time I had made 11 1/4 gallons. In my records I wrote: “El Nino, season early & short.”

The dates for tapping range from that earliest February 21, to the latest, March 12 in 1986. That season ended on April 3 (70). With only 27 taps, I produced only six gallons, almost all Fancy Grade. The most taps I have ever put in were 65 and the fewest 27. This year with son Graham behind the bit, I put in 42 taps on March 8 when the sap was running.

Looking over my 25 years of records I find no correlation between the amount of syrup produced and either the amount of snow on the ground, or the date I tap out. Although I might tap on March first, I might not have enough sap to boil for more than a week. This year, although we tapped out on March 8, everything froze up shortly afterwards. I did not have my first boil until March 20.

In 1984 and in 1996 I burned the pan, but with friends capable of making repairs, Im still at it with the same old pan. This year the tappers had to wear snowshoes, and the buckets hang very high on the trees. The yield has been disappointing. One little friend was out gathering for me and I think I saw him squeezing one of the trees in a vain attempt to increase the flow.

While I am in the sugarhouse, I spend a lot of time reading. This year I have been rereading The Plague by Camus. I found this relevant quote. On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. They are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont.

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