Maybe Just a Drop or Two


Sunday afternoon I walked up the hill to collect sap. I knew it would be the last gather; the evenings are too warm, now, and the trees are tired, anyway. I guess I’m a little tired, too; we’ve carried a lot of sap out of the woods, and spent a lot of days with the windows thrown wide to shed the heat of the wood stove as we boiled. The boys – whose job it is to keep the woodbox full – have soured on the task. Indeed, it has been a long sugaring season, almost ideal in every way – perfect weather, easy, snowless access to the woods, an extended cold snap to delay the onset of buds. I heard from someone who knows these sort of things that many sugar makers have run short on firewood. Records will be broken, I am sure of that.

Death (life)

So. Sugaring done. One more tick of the seasonal clock behind us. Now: Finish firewood, water the seedlings, plant the new trees and prune the old ones, run fence, watch the cow grow fat with calf. Soon: Tend the garden, bale the hay, swat and curse the black flies, eat the salad, drink the milk. And if no one’s looking, maybe just a drop or two of syrup to sweeten the glass.

 PS: Some of you might be interested in this commentary I wrote. 







17 thoughts on “Maybe Just a Drop or Two”

  1. I read and enjoyed your VT Digger commentary. In my own way, I believe in, advocate for, and live, the very ideals that you articulate there.

    But there is a deep irony in my advocacy that I am unable to get shut of: It is this: That simplicity costs too much to be a viable option for most Americans. Or again:That it is a fantasy to expect that most Americans (rich/poor, educated/uneducated, of all races) are wise enough to understand that the wealth of simplicity is (or can be) greater than the wealth of wealth.

    Thinkers from the very beginning have tried and tried to rewrite the meaning of wealth. But it’s been a tough rewrite. Always people have pointed to their bodies, their egos, their minds, their children, their desires, their lusts, their morality, and say no thank you. They do likewise today. I suspect they will do likewise tomorrow.

    1. I think one of the problems of simplicity is that it’s scary. In the simplicity that I think of (maybe advisable to define simplicity first) I have no cushion to fall back on in times of trouble.

    2. I think too much stock is placed in these arguments. It boils down to: “everyone can’t do this, therefore…” If people want to do this, it’s great to know it’s still possible in some places, as many of us don’t believe it is.

    3. I don’t disagree with PM’s sentiments. But I also don’t really expect to change anyone’s mind with anything I write or speak. Mostly, I wrote that commentary for the same reason I write almost everything I post here: I derive pleasure from working with the language to express my observations, thoughts, and ideas. This might be selfish, I don’t know.

      Although commentary’s like that one can generally be summed up as “preaching to the converted,” I think it can also be said that sometimes the converted need preaching, too. At least, I know I do.

      1. I agree w/ the least para because process is not like this: I made a decision to do something and now I never fall back on old ways. I’m permanently good. It’s more like this: I want to keep reminding myself the path I’ve chosen and as I go along the path I need the support and the little pulling of the ear when my friends “see my shen-pa”. (mistakes and foibles, sort of) to alert me I’ve gone off-course.

  2. We just moved in to our own place. A small acreage in the San Joaquin Valley big enough for livestock and a large garden. We have a good well and, inspired by you (and Ron), I am starting off by testing the soil. (Sandy clay loam that doesn’t drain well for some mysterious reason. Hard pan layer underneath?) I have your book on the table next to my armchair and I’m trying to memorize the garden chapter. Cool beans and thank you very much!

  3. I read this with interest as I do all of your writing though I am sad to hear this is happening in VT – a place I have come to think of as idyllic and beyond the reach of this sort of “improvement.” I was in the mountains here in NC last weekend (attending the Mother Earth News Fair – I urge all to go if you ever get the chance) and was saddened to see how many wild places I have known over the years now have roof lines interrupting the formerly unbroken mountain side, the number of gated communities, the unmistakable signs of “success” that I don’t subscribe to. The 20 acre property just behind my farm will be going on the market next month for over half a million dollars. It has a small shed row barn and a tiny little cabin tucked into the forest. I have walked, ridden horses, and carried children across that land for years and never once did I dream that it would someday be offered up at that kind of price or that I would live next to land someone (who lives in another state and has never lived here) is trying to attract the kind of person who pays more than half a million dollars for what I always considered to be a wonderfully humble spot. I’d like to be optimistic but I am pretty certain the kind of person who is going to pay $550k for land is not the kind of person who will enjoy living in a tiny cabin. Oddly enough, I think the only people who would leave it pretty much as is would be us since it adjoins our property and we would have no need to “improve” it in the common use of the word. We’ll just have to be content to be the humble/poor-but-not-in-the-way-they-might-think neighbors. Success means different things to different people but I despair that it so often seems to mean the destruction of all things humble and unassuming. Thanks for your eloquent treatment of a challenging story. Hoping the people of VT can find a way through all this and serve as an example to other communities.

      1. I am doubtful they’ll get their asking price but I long ago stopped predicting human behavior. If they do get anything close to that, it will give us some food for thought about where we might be headed in the future. Hope all is well your way. 🙂

  4. Ben,

    Good to see the image of your hog ready for scalding. As one who also home butchers hogs, I appreciate the ‘urgency’ of getting the work done before warming weather steals what little leisure can be found between the killing, scalding, scraping, hanging/cooling, breakdown, lard rendering, and around my way the making of scrapple… The work is tiring, but the promise a hog in the larder brings is a great joy. Happy Spring!

  5. We just came to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and I naively expected to see rural quiet countryside, instead found a mini-Disneyworld and traffic congestion as bad as Chicago…. Looks like they have enormously expanded the Dollywood and all attractions, urban sprawl, around here and little peace remains for the local humans and non-humans alike. One local said the land price was driven up from $1,000 an acre to $8,000 an acre in just a couple years.

    I liked the commentary in VT Digger. Nice work. And thank you for sharing!

    1. That’s a shame. I haven’t been to that area in about 20 years and it was not like that at all. I only remember its beauty. Sorry to hear that is has been disrupted. And I love Dolly.:)

      1. Dollywood itself has been there since 1986, however, the urban/suburban sprawl has mostly taken place in the last 2 years, according to the locals. Every local person we talked to, were not pleased with the phenomenon. Stopping by here right after visiting the vastness of the American west, I could not wait to get out. Mountains are still beautiful, but you can barely see them behind the billboards.

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