Sun shining through onto the maples and sap buckets
I got the word yesterday that Shelburne Sugarworks, just up the road, will be holding their first Sugar on Snow Weekend this weekend. This means watching sap get boiled into syrup, plus tours of the sugarbush, samples, and sugar on snow complete with pickle and donut. I learned this on a morning that started at 9 degrees below zero.
Then I read that afternoon that the annual statewide Maple Open House Weekend is happening on March 22-23. This is great weekend to see sugaring in action and to get some syrup for the year. Last year I bought two gallons from Shelburne Sugarworks. It was not at all enough. We supplemented that throughout the year with over a gallon from other local sugar makers. This year we may need to stock up more earlier. In past years we also have attended the open house at Shelburne Farms on this weekend. They have a pancake breakfast and, well, the whole awesome farm to check out.
It was hard to believe yesterday that spring is close enough that sap will be running soon. We had several nights of below-zero temperatures. The snow is crusted right over. The wind has been blowing the loose snow into drifts. It has been downright wintry. Then today I left work and it felt sort of warm outside. The thermometer in the car read 32. Almost springlike?
I took a short walk after hanging out and sitting all day, at Wheeler Park in South Burlington. It was an easy walk on the packed snow, across a field and then into the woods. The cedars were thick at one point and then just ended with an abrupt transition into a hardwood stand, with a mix of young and old trees. Hanging on the larger maples were galvanized sap buckets. Someone clearly is anticipating some thawing. The sap run requires nights below freezing and days above freezing. There could be some sap running this weekend.
Spring is definitely around the corner when open house time comes to sugar houses around the state. This weekend was it. My daughter and I hopped over the hill to Shelburne Farms for their event. We got there late in the morning and started things off with their benefit pancake breakfast. We ate pancakes with, duh, maple syrup and sipped hot beverages (cocoa for her, coffee for me) before wandering about the animal barns. There was a passel of new lambs we oohed at for a while, guarded by a llama (it sported a hand written sign that read “I Spit!”). Then we made our way up the muddy trail to the sugar house.
Pile of Fluffiness
The sugar house was a busy place–lots of visitors and lots of steam. The sap was running and syrup was in the making.
Boiling Under Way
Formerly Maple Sap
A Lesson at the Steamer
We had the opportunity to taste the generous doses of fresh syrup that volunteers were handing out and we walked up the hill to see the lines–tubes that catch the sap and run it down to the collector to be boiled down. They tap about 500 trees (I paid attention during the lesson) so they make a fair amount of syrup, most of which gets used the in restaurant on site. I will have to head back over there at some point for breakfast.
We tried to stop at Palmer’s Sugarhouse on the way home to purchase some syrup even closer to home. We stopped and headed inside but that place was so packed we would have had to wait at least a half hour in line. Forget it. They were boiling like mad with their oil-fueled system–bigger and faster than the system at Shelburne Farms, no doubt. I’ll go back to Palmer’s some time this week and buy a couple gallons. If they still have it.
We have enough maple syrup to get us through for a little while, but that stuff is just plain old good. Makes me want to whip up some yeasted waffle batter tonight so we can have them in the morning. But maybe I’m not quite that ambitious. The ideal situation would be if someone else made the waffles. That however, ain’t happening. Maybe next weekend.
It has been pretty ideal sugaring weather lately. Warm days and cold nights. The sap is flowing. This weekend is open house weekend at sugarhouses across the state. Tomorrow we will head out to one or two of them, do some tasting and watch the sap boil.
We will start off with a pancake breakfast at Shelburne Farms. My parents are up for the weekend and we will make a morning of it. Pancakes and syrup and some fun together. Sunday it looks to rain all day. It will be a wet one.
The sap should be flowing again tomorrow. The children can hardly wait to sip those little cups of syrup. Neither can I.