First Boil

Homemade buckskin backpack

This strange half-winter endures. Last night I drove a narrow dirt lane, the track made almost riverbed-like by mud and standing water. The truck sluiced between the road’s shoulders, riding the ruts and channels, and I passed a sugarhouse in full boil, steam thick above it, obscuring the emerging night sky. The door was open. I knew the people inside, could picture them gathered around the front pan, full of the first boil’s nervous energy. They’d be hot, down to tee shirts, faces shiny with sweat and evaporated water.

I slowed and thought to stop, but already I was late to retrieve my sons from the dairy barn where they do chores twice weekly, so I put my foot back to the gas and kept rolling. Soon the sugarhouse was distant in my rearview mirror, and then I made a right turn onto another mudded road, and when I looked over my shoulder all I could see was that dense cloud of steam hanging in the too-warm February air.

10 thoughts on “First Boil”

  1. We did our first boil yesterday, after a round of collecting sap, walking on bare ground, boots making squishing noises, pushing the mud aside as we walked. Incredibly, there was a green caterpillar inching across the drive, and the first green of daffodils, nosing their way through the bare dirt . Doesnt seem much like February.

  2. our rig is out in the open so i don’t know nothing about stripping down to t-shirts but we finished 2 gal last week and forecast looks good for a couple more batches fore this winter is up

  3. Ben,

    I really, emphasis on REALLY, enjoy your posts, as so many of them bring back images of my childhood in Hanover/Lebanon/Plainfield, NH.

    I loved helping to make maple syrup with farmer Churchill when I was a kid. I helped carry sap buckets from the trees to the waiting 300 gallon galvanized tank that was mounted on a trailer made from an old manure spreader chassis and being haul through the 2-track woods road by a 1940’s vintage Ford 9N tractor.

    Did you know that an ounce of whisky with a table spoon of warm maple syrup is rather tasty? Or, that sugar on snow candy is a treat that most people, even those who live in maple country, seldom make and enjoy? We have fresh snow and a gallon of Grade A Dark Amber syrup out in the beer fridge in the garage, so maybe it would be a good time to make some sugar on snow candy.

    The last time that I helped with a syrup operation was back in Feb/Mar 2004, when I was in Lyme, NH, “helping” Ben “The Bear Man” Kilham and his wonder Wife, Deb, filter and bottle syrup from their sugar orchard on the sometimes bottomless mud of the Grafton Turnpike.

    1. Cool, Jeff, thanks for mentioning the sugar on snow candy. Never tried that, just the regular maple candy, but it looks so good. Clean snow seems to be a rarity this year.

      It must be a sappy Friday, I read about sap on at least 3 different blogs. 🙂 We were on a farm yesterday, and one lady asked where the taps are, I thought it was a strange question in early February in IL, but I see I was wrong.

      Thinking back to my childhood days, for whatever reason, we did not have maple syrup – I tried first maple syrup at age 21 in the USA. 🙂 One thing we enjoyed in springtime even in school cafeteria was birch sap, and that was my favorite.

      Happy syruping weekend everyone!

      1. I’m thinking that whisky and syrup is better consumed at the close of the day, rather than toward the beginning, otherwise you may not get your chores finished. A little KY bourbon mixed with a little NH/VT maple syrup can’t ever be bad. Stay thirsty my friend!

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