Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vermont's Sweet Smell of Spring

One sure sign of spring here in Vermont is spotting thick white billowing clouds of steam rising up through the valleys and mountains once the daytime temperatures start creeping into the forties. It's sugaring time, and we wanted to check out some of the action during the 10th Annual Maple Open House Weekend on Saturday. Being a transplant from the south, I felt very fortunate to have experienced this ancient northern ritual on a variety of scales.

Our first stop is K & S  Ruane's  Maple Sugar Farm 

This was state of the art everything, with all kinds of extra machines to help speed up the evaporation process. The chrome was beautiful, but a little overwhelming and the process was being generated by oil.

Kevin Ruane - nice guy and owner of all that chrome

This was a fairly large scale production and not exactly the quaint, quintessential Vermont experience I was hoping for.

Next we decided to pop in unannounced on Kathy and Steve Halford and see what they were up to.  They have a really sweet (no pun intended) sugar house, totally off the grid and they were in full sugaring mode when we arrived. They were not part of the open house and were very generous to let us barge in on the action.

Steve was busy keeping the fire going in the arch. He alternates between hot, slow burning hardack wood  and quick burning pine, producing a steady heat to boil the sap.

Steve is explaining to Glenn how the house is designed too allow the steam to escape.

I can't even begin to describe the luscious smell!

Kathy keeps an eagle eye on the progress of the sap/syrup as it moves through the pan.

The process takes awhile, so we had time to visit over glasses of homemade wine and an amazing smoked cheese.

I took a walk to get a different vantage point. The sap is collected in the blue tubing and stored on the large white holding bin.

When I first moved to Vermont I was enthralled with the tubing running through parts of the woods. It still reminds me of a Christo or an Andrew Goldsworthy sometimes.

Meanwhile, back in the sugar house the sap is becoming syrup as it runs through the partitions of the evaporator.

Kathy tests the density with a hydrometer and says it's ready. Woohoo!

She then pours it through a cotton felt filter to remove any impurities.

And out it comes. Vermont Gold!!

Thanks Kathy and Steve for the fine hospitality and the delicious quart of syrup!

Next, hubby gets a hankering to tap some trees of his own. 

Alright, this shot would have been a lot more effective with an old tin bucket, but plastic will have to do.

Thumbs up! Now we just let nature take it's course.

Next day we gather the sap and have a REAL old timey sugaring experience. Six hours we boiled and four tablespoons we got. 
Oh well, it sure was a wonderful excuse to be outside soaking up some vitamin d after a long winter and next weekend we will have french toast with our own hard earned maple syrup!


  1. Living in Canada, I had no idea how maple syrup is made...yes no idea. This was very educative. Thanks a bunch for sharing!

  2. Lol~ sounds like an adventure! We visited a Sugar Farm last year, we were a bit too late to see it in action though. Bummer. :)