Hi folks, I hope you are having a good day today. I never know what the day will be like weather wise when you get this paper, because I usually write this column a week ahead. Last week was another one in which we got little snow. In fact we have barely a covering of snow and on Wednesday it was sunny and up to 60 degrees. I actually went to the creek and spent some time enjoying the gurgling voice of the water, especially where it traveled up and over a very large rock. It resembled a miniature fountain and I couldn't resist sitting on the huge rock where I often sat to listen and observe what surrounded me on that wonderful day.
We have had many good days this winter and the past two months, still in March, have been great for the maple syrup producers. I have heard that some of them, including "Red" Redleckie tapped his sugar bush in January and he said that it was the lightest syrup he had ever made.
Harvesting syrup is not an easy task, but with the newer equipment it is easier than it was when I was a child and even more so in years before that. In those early times, tapping the trees by hand was difficult and I remember my grandma boiling the sap on her old wood stove. We kids loved going there and having the delicious maple syrup cakes she always had in the early spring.
When we moved to Sherman, my dad had a sugar bush in the woods behind the house. He had to cut wood ahead of time to use in the evaporator that cooked the sap. Then he went to the woods, often on a cold, snowy winter day via of the horse and wagon. He tapped all the maple trees by hand, I think with drill, and hung metal baskets on each to catch the sap. The sap would run if the night before was below freezing and about 40 degrees in the daytime. It takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Often there was lot of snow on the ground making it difficult for the horses to pull the wagon to get the sap and take it to the sugarhouse. It was usually quite a cold and snowy task.
The fire was built in the sugarhouse and the sap was dumped into the evaporator, which had to be kept boiling 24 hours a day. When the temperature was just right, the syrup was run off and put into metal cans. It was extremely hard and tiring work especially since most of the sugarhouses were owned by farmers. Therefore, they also had chores to do day and night, so they had to have some kind of help to carry out both tasks. Sometimes the person keeping the syrup boiling worked long hours. Fortunately I had a 12-year-old brother who helped my dad and maybe someone else occasionally. My parents kept enough syrup for our use, mom made sugar cakes, maple cream, frosting and we had wax on snow. I don't remember if she used it in anything else.
Now days, the modern methods for sugaring have tubing to carry the sap to the sugarhouse and vacuums' reverse osmosis processes, whatever that is. Probably there are new methods of tapping the trees and some producers put the syrup in plastic. All of those things make the labor less intrusive.
I have not visited a sugarhouse in a long time, so I don't know how all the tasks in sugaring are carried out today, but I'm sure it still necessitates much hard labor. I also think there are people who still use the older methods though perhaps on a smaller scale for the equipment is no doubt very costly. Most are in the business because it provides extra money for the family expenses and they get the product free instead of paying $40 or more a gallon.
Since I've been giving you some information about the maple sugar industry, I haven't gone into detail about up coming St. Patrick's Day. I'll only say to you all, and especially to all you Irish folk and those who enjoy celebrating that day in a special way, happy St. Patrick's Day and give you these Irish sayins passed down from yesteryear.
Oh, the music in the air!
An' the joy that's ivrywhere -
sure, the whole blue vault of heaven
Is wan grand triumphal arch,
An' the earth below is gay
Wid its tender green th'-day,
Fur the whole world is Irish
on the Seventeenth o' March!
~Thomas Augustin Daly
When Irish eyes are smiling,
'Tis like a morn in spring.
With a lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.