Vermont, no doubt, loves its maple sugar. It is an undeniable life blood to those who are born and raised and even to a few who've happened along for this reason or that and had the pleasure of trying something a little old fashioned. Not everyone loves the sugary treat though, preferring their bottles of corn sugar with coloring and additives. It might be blasphemy, but neither is exactly right or exactly wrong...for who am I to say what another should like or prefer? I will say this though, ours is a little more natural and needs no alchemical concoction other than good ol' hard work, a little know how, and a hot stove.
Here we see one example of what can easily be considered the cornerstone of any good sugaring operation--the sugar house. And at the heart of any good sugaring operation is, no doubt, a well stacked pile of wood.
I've been wanting to photograph this sugar house for some time, passing it by often and only catching a glimpse its roof and accompanying wood pile. Even from the main roadway I could tell that there was a photo opportunity just waiting to be uncovered over the hill.
On this particular day, while jaunting about in search of photographic opportunities, I gave pause to park alongside the road, saunter up the hill , and partake in the view of this promising and yet humble patch of earth. Many sugaring shacks are pieced together out of garages, awnings, and ramshackle barns but here was this icon of simplicity. A small house nestled along forest and field. A tin roof, a smoke stack, and a bit of snow to mark the season.
From here, amidst the cords of wood, I can imagine the owner, his helpers and family, working back and forth in a line as they hoist and carry all the wood needed to keep the fires going. As I think more and more about it I can remember the smell of my family's own sugaring house and how the late evenings could be spent savoring the many nuances a sugar house brings.
There is the sweet scent that lingers in the air and pours out the door. The sauna like conditions that almost demand a door or window be kept open to allow in a refreshing breeze. There's the tasting out of small cups not unlike a simple shot glass. And then there's family.
There is a hustle and a bustle to a sugaring house. A certain exuberance that also offers quiet revelry. You can move, shift and shuffle, but you also must know how to be patient and wait. The time and work is most certainly better enjoyed when shared and the entire experience begs to be remembered for years to come.
Somewhere in that sugar house, you can be certain, is a most basic tradition of all sugar houses. Somewhere, if you look around, will be the simple notations of how many gallons have been boiled each season; likely etched in pencil and not altogether unlike the height marks made by a parent of their child as they are growing.
With this image I ask; who among you has had the distinct pleasure that comes about when entering a sugar house in full swing? What stories do you recall? Which memory holds the most meaning? And who brought sugaring into your life?
For, here in Vermont, sugaring is definitely a way of life.
Thanks for joining me today. Until next time, stay safe and enjoy yourself a sweet sip of the good stuff.