Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dateline Woodstock:
There are two groups of people who live here in Woodstock: those who want Spring to come as soon as possible, and those who want Winter to linger on as long as possible. You might be surprised to learn that, despite their apparently disparate points of view, these people get along quite well. Those of you who live in parts of the United States (or the world for that matter) where the snow has already melted can sympathize with Vermonters who still have 1 to 2 feet of the white stuff in their dooryards. Many of us haven't seen bare ground since the beginning of October, so we can't wait for the last remnant of the winter to disappear and for green grass and real flowers to appear. On the other side are all the maple sugar makers who are tending their fires hoping that the sap will keep flowing a few more days, even a week or so, so they can get a good c! rop of sweet maple syrup in. Here in Vermont a good maple crop is an economic necessity. Or tiny state is the top maple syrup producer in the United States, and many Vermont farmers depend on it for their livelihood. Starting about mid-March, maple syrup makers (called "sugarmakers") start drilling small holes (called "taps") in large stands of sugar maple trees. All up the side of a Vermont hill you can see hundreds of trees connected to each other with plastic tubing, with 2 or 3 taps per tree each contributing a steady but slow drip, drip, drip of clear and tasteless sap. At the bottom of the hill, each drip has turned into a gusher of sap which collects in a 200-500 gallon tank. The contents of the tank is pumped out quickly and transported to the "sugarhouse" where it is heated to 217'F and about 39 gallons of water out of every 40 gallons of sap are boiled away as sweet-smelling steam. What is left is bottled and used by Vermonters on blueberry pancakes (the official ! state breakfast). What we don't use ourselves is sold to tourists (cal led "people from away"). Our neighbor Mary, over at Top Acres Farm, is just finishing a great crop of Fancy and Grade A syrup which she can ship anywhere in the US in quart cans. If you'd like to sample some of Vermont's finest, give Mary a call at 802/457-3779 with your particulars. You won't be disappointed.

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