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Sugaring in the Time of Mud

By April 7, 2010September 26th, 2011No Comments
by Julie Moir Messervy

Here’s a quick look at two early spring Vermont traditions: making maple syrup and getting stuck in the mud.

L: Maple sap drips into a collection bucket; R: Stuck in the mud, way back when.
Photos: L: Vermont Public Radio; R: Vermont State Archives.

Every year, when the snow starts to melt and the sap begins to run, the Vermont countryside experiences the onset of twin seasons: sugaring and mud. This is the time of year that the snowbirds flee south to alight in warmer climes, while we working stiffs stay to brave the muck that cakes onto boots and into wheel wells. It’s when drivers need to strategically map the best course to stay out of the deepest ruts or risk losing the underside of their car.

Proof of a mild mud season: Julie’s dirt road and an early crop of daffodils from the garden.
Photos: Julie Moir Messervy.

We couldn’t live the three miles up our north-facing dirt road without the undying support of our road crew who dump truckloads of stones into the deepest, muddiest spots, just so we can make it down and up our hill another day. Last year, the big snowfalls created the perfect storm, with ruts so deep my Subaru and I were almost swallowed whole. (or at least it felt that way!) This year, there’s hardly any mud at all. Go figure.

Neighbors gathered to finish out the sugaring season and watch the sap boil down. Video: Julie Moir Messervy.

Last year, we also experienced a magnificent sugaring season. The warm days and subfreezing nights went on for weeks, and the sap ran fast and hard. This year was less successful. But last Wednesday evening, just as everyone else in Vermont had thrown in the towel, my neighbor’s sugarhouse was steaming through all of its many cracks. I stopped off to say hi and left three hours later, full of the mingled tastes of hot syrup, red wine, and good conversation with my neighbors. There’s nothing quite like it—sitting on old car seats telling stories as the sap boils down in the wood-fired evaporator. Worth a trip, if you don’t get lost in the mud!

Need more maple? Check out these links:
King Arthur Flour Maple bread recipe