Sugaring Weather


Frosty. That was this morning. Grass, branches, porch railing, stones–all frost-covered. The air was still. I rose before the sun crested the mountains, walked into the morning. The ground was frozen, so walking was easy and quiet. I wore a down jacket.

Despite the cold, a few degrees below freezing, the blackbirds sang. Song Sparrows tried their best to stake out their territories. Over a hundred geese flew overhead. Yesterday’s puddles sported white caps of ice.

In the river, a beaver broke the water’s surface, swimming around the bend. A mink bounded along the shore, pausing to watch me as I watched it. The river babbled its usual course under the bridge.

When the sun appeared, it spread light across the fields, melting the frost. In the shadows, ice held on. Soon enough, those crystals would droop and disappear. The puddles would be free. Bluebirds would sing as the breeze arose.

Freezing nights and warm days. That is just what sugar makers need. There will be some boiling today. I hope to take my empty gallon jugs up the road to Shelburne Sugarworks today to get them filled. They say they will have sugar on snow, but I’m not sure there is snow to be had. Maple cotton candy, perhaps. My guess is they will be boiling today. The weather is just right.

Autumn Hinting at Winter

Rain tumbles against the porch roof. It pours from the upper eave, resonating in the hollow space just outside my wall. It is what you might call a dark and stormy night, if you want to use such an overused expression. In a literal way, it describes things quite well. It has, as is the case this time of year, been dark for several hours. When in the summer we might still be out on the porch reading, now the sun has long set, the air sinks toward freezing, and the warmth of the house tempts us inside.

We keep getting frost. The past two mornings pink and purple washed the sky of darkness, pushing the sun into the day. The frost on the grass and the lingering leaves and the withered milkweed glowed in the morning color. As the days get on, frost lingers in the shadows until the sun finds it and sends it off. Snow has tickled the sky some afternoons. We talk about skiing.

Down by the river there are times when the birds make noise. Afternoons with sun–they like those. They chirp and peep but hardly sing. They have forgotten how to sing, it seems, talking to each other in quiet voices, hiding in the brush, afraid perhaps that winter will find them. Most of them will be gone soon. They will seek the sun.

Yesterday I returned home after a day working and made my way to the hammock I have yet to store for the winter. I lay on my back, looking up at the yellow maple leaves waving in the breeze. The sun, just visible over the house, was too bright. I shaded my eyes, watching the occasional leaf break free and float to the lawn. I almost fell asleep.

Sometimes in the winter I imagine finding a pile of snow and settling in, falling asleep warm in layers of insulation, of lying there while snow falls and covers me, of finding myself in a world of white and slowness and quiet. Some winter mornings I can sit on the porch and feel this way, just looking out at the still white field, no need to find that pile of snow. But it is not winter yet. Color still dapples the hills. The occasional song sparrow still sings. Snow won’t be part of our habits for weeks.

Winter does not arrive to the front door, however. Winter makes her way in through the back door and parks on the couch, eating your chips and flipping through magazines while you stack wood. Who knows how long she has been there before you notice? And once you do, you can’t really ask her to leave at that point. That just wouldn’t be good manners.

Vultures and Frostiness

IMG_2490Yesterday I worked for the day. Driving north toward Burlington I looked up to see three Turkey Vultures circling. I was so excited I had to pull over. Then I saw four Canada Geese looking for spot to set down. It was cold–22 degrees according to the car thermometer–but they have returned. I took a walk by the Winooski River at the end of the day, hoping to spot some birds newly arrived. No dice but I did see a couple of Cedar Waxwings. They have not been common in my haunts this winter.

As I brushed my teeth this morning my wife was excited to pop upstairs and tell me a Red-Winged Blackbird was right outside. And there it was. I walked outside and saw a few more. This is the first I have seen of them this spring. The past couple of years they have arrived a little earlier, but I hear there has been some snow farther south. That may have held them up.

I woke this morning to 11 degrees with a high forecast to be 19. Winter today. Snow flurries at the moment. The sun will be out, however. At some point. We have had some frosty mornings lately but it won’t be long before spring grabs the days and runs with them. I try to be deliberate about noticing the transition to spring. So often I hear that spring arrived “all of a sudden” when it really has been trudging toward us for a while.

I lit a fire in the stove this morning. The rising sun is melting the frost. Just about a year ago we had a big storm with two feet of snow. That doesn’t look to happen again this year, but March isn’t over yet. We will have a cold one today, then the sap will be running and the roads will be mud. Today it smells like wood smoke. Tomorrow it will smell like thawing earth.

Day 44: Frost and Kinglet

This morning we had frost. When I left the house at 5:15 AM the temperature was 29 degrees. I wore a fleece layer, gloves, and a hat. That is not all I wore, of course, but I have not worn those items in many days. It was chilly.  When the air is cold and clear, that early in the day, before the sun is really roused, I appreciate again the beauty of the place I live. The horizon was pink and the thinnest crescent moon rose over Camel’s Hump. Two geese honked over head as I walked down the driveway. My misted breath danced out over the greening field.

I had that same soreness again this morning. My Achilles tendon has been letting me know it wants some attention lately. I have not totally ignored it, but I haven’t paid attention to its whining either. Today I kept the run to three miles and I walked some at the end to be safe. It is a bit of a nuisance. But it was a fine morning to be out, so I was content. After all, I will run again tomorrow.

There were lots of birds to be heard out there on that short run–red-winged blackbirds and robins and geese and ducks and song sparrows. Yesterday I was running on a narrow class IV section of road, where the trees are tight on each side. I thought I heard a ruby crowned kinglet singing. I stopped. Sure enough, in a tree right near me a little bird hopped from branch to branch and belted out its complicated flurry of notes. That little bird can sing like a champ, and I don’t hear them around here all that often. It was a treat. Then, as I passed over the river, I watched a great blue heron try to catch breakfast by the shore. It has been a good couple days for birds.

Today the high temperature is forecast to be 73 degrees. That is much warmer than 29. I am guessing we will get one more day of frost and that’s it. Today might have been our last one, but I like to plan on frost in early May. So I might get a crisp morning run in one more time. Either way, I’ll be out there. Tomorrow I get to sleep in. I’ll give the old ankle more than 24 hours rest. And then I’ll  put in a few more miles.

Twenty Five Carrots

I pulled the last of the carrots yesterday, the last thing to come out of the ground for the season. There were 25 carrots of three varieties. My wife went for a run with a friend and when they returned they had a tasting of all three.  One was sweet, another was really sweet, and a third was almost bitter.  The third one was one I got because it would supposedly mature quickly and last. That it did, but it isn’t know for flavor, apparently. The variety is actually typical in supermarkets. I guess that explains it.

Another friend called later in the morning.  He had baked a whole pile of pumpkin bread and wanted to bring some over on his way to the market.  He was planning to make a stew and was all out of one ingredient–carrots. So we made a trade–a handful of carrots for some fresh warm sweet bread.  He also took the taste test and found the results as the rest of us had.  My daughter also agreed–I trust any kid who tells me a carrot tastes sweet, even if she did have a fever.

The carrots that did not get consumed in the taste test or get shipped to be chopped into stew or get saved to eat raw met a different fate.  I peeled them, cubed them, steamed them, blanched them, and froze them. I was planning to make carrot soup but we still have pumpkin soup left over from a couple days ago.  I can still make soup with the frozen carrots but now I have no rush.  i froze twelve cups of carrots, which seems like a fair amount, although I am sure they won’t last all that long.

I still need to tuck that garden bed in for the winter, now that it contains no more root crops. I edged it and turned it and figured I could just get to it another time.  I forgot about frost.  That still happens I guess. It makes the ground cold and eventually the ground will get all hard and frozen. I need to keep that in mind and get the garden set for the winter.  I have made my leisure. I need to cut that out. At least I have something to show for some of the work.


Carrots on Cutting Board

On the Chopping Block

Carrot Cubes


Carrots in Colandar

Look at These Orange Puppies



Frosty Foggy Morning

We got our first frost this morning.  It was chilly and foggy, with ice settled on the grass and leaves and rocks.  Mist rose from the river.  I ran early again, determined to keep getting out there before the day gets too far underway. It always seems worth rising early, and today was no exception.  I ran into the fog across the river, I watched the sun tip over the hills, and I saw the color seep into the leaves with the morning light.  It was the last morning of summer.  It let me know that fall is here.  Apparently it arrived a day early.

Fog Over the River

Mist in the Valley

Running Into the Fog

Running Into the Fog

Frost on the Cut Field

Frost on the Cut Field

First Light on a Turning Maple

First Light on a Turning Maple

Cows Appreciate the Sun's Warmth

Cows Ready for the Sun's Warmth

Running Back

Running Back

Fog Lingering Over the River

Fog Lingering Over the River

Frost Lingering in the Field

Frost Lingering in the Field

Danger! Frost Ahead!


Alert! Frost Protection!

Alert! Frost Protection!

We are looking to get frost again tonight.  The children and I went out to cover the pumpkins seedlings, plus one cucumber plant that has just busted though the soil.  It was too windy for the plastic buckets we used before–no way they would stay on all night.  We improvised.

The kids’ orange play cones did the trick.  They are a little heavier and more stable.  Hopefully they will protect our little guys.  We may not get a frost but why take chances?  

Notice the grass clippings on the bed.  I edged the beds with our electric trimmer this afternoon.  I had to use two extension cords to get that far, but it worked like a charm, I mean, except for the grass clippings everywhere. It worked so well I trimmed all over the place, even under the apple tree up on the hill.  And around the blueberry bushes.  I will do that again.

So the pumpkins have trimmed beds to sleep in.  A bit messy, but with those cozy cones to keep them warm, my guess it they won’t notice.

Three Things

1. We just got back from Connecticut this afternoon.  We headed down Friday for a family visit.  We celebrated Mother’s Day with my mother.  My mom is pretty awesome.  Not everyone can say that so I am lucky.  I didn’t give my spouse much of a Mother’s Day.  She misses her own mother in this day.  As do I.

2. We finally mowed the lawn this afternoon, when we got back.  It was too long and too wet but it had to be done.  Mowing the lawn.  What a drag.  It is nice to have a lawn but I keep having dreams of beautiful walking gardens with flowers and herbs.  One of these days I will get on that.  Shady bowers and scintillating scents and reading spots and peaceful corners.  That is what I’m talking about.

3. It was almost hot a couple of days ago.  When we stepped out of the car down the road to get gas (we were afraid we might not make it the two more miles to home, that is how low we were) we shrieked with chilliness.  It was in the 40’s.  Tonight it will get close to freezing.  Two of the three peppers I planted finally sprouted.  They won’t go in the ground for a couple of weeks.  If we are lucky we will get no more frost.

Garage and Windshield Wipers

Our thermometer read zero when we rose this morning.  It read 32 when I went to bed.  That’s a drop.  I walked my daughter out to the bus and we were glad to have snow pants and neck gaitors.  A breeze blew.  The snow squeaked.  It wasn’t a day for the bus to be late.  It was early.

Soon after that I headed to work, sans snowpants.  Well, I did in fact toss them in the car.  You never know.  My legs were cold just walking to the garage.  And this is why we have a garage.  The thermometer in the car (a feature worth having let me tell you) read 20 degrees.  Let me say that again, 20 degrees! That is a twenty degree difference between the outside air temperature and the unheated garage temperature.  That makes having a garage a huge bonus.

And here’s another thing:  no scraping.  When the air gets icy and I’ve got to leave early, that’s when I forget that I need to scrape the frost.  But with a garage, no problemo dude.  No frost to scrape.  It is warmer, I don’t have to scrape, I can get in the car without getting wet in the rain.  It is awesome.

When we bought this house we weren’t looking for a garage.  We knew it would be a good thing to have, but baby I’m so sold on it now.  How cold I ever go back?  Hopefully I won’t have to.

My only problem now is my sucky windshield wipers.  I paid extra, for the first time ever, to have someone else install a set for me the last time I brought the car in for service.  I figured I just wanted to get it done, so I didn’t do it myself.  Way to go Economy Boy.  They sucked from the beginning, and they still suck.  No matter what I have done to adjust them, they streak like nuts.  And on an icy day like this, with salt and crap getting kicked up, I need some wipers that do the job.

Even my awesome garage won’t help with that problem.  I just need to suck it up and get another pair.  I guess it is better to pay a few extra bucks than to crack up because I can’t see what is coming at me.  That would really make some poor financial sense.