Hill Report, by woods crew member Ross Scatchard:
The sugaring season thus far has worked like a series of games. Tapping could be seen as a game of sorts; search for the live white wood to set the tap amongst the dotted pattern of previous tap holes. Good luck on some of the double tapped trees. Each individual tree holds this small game, but the larger process of setting near 10,000 taps felt like more of a chore at times when the snow was thigh deep and the zig-zag of blue lines led you up yet another steep slope. We were able to get everything tapped before the first sap started to flow. One point for the sugar makers on that game. On to the next game of the sugaring season.
Bubbles. Follow the bubbles. If they’re really whizzing, you know there’s a hole somewhere on the blue line above you. Sometime you can hear the hissing as the vacuum sucks air into the line, losing pressure on the whole system. So, we walk the lines, listening, looking, following the bubbles. Quick, find the hole caused by an animal chew, or fallen tree limb, cut out the damaged section and splice the line back together. On to the next hole, hundreds may await your discovery and repair. Follow the bubbles.
We are into the most tedious game of the season. The waiting game! After a short run in early-mid March, temperatures have dropped and stayed low. Many checks of the weather and some almost warm enough days have just been a tease. Leaving us wondering WHEN? The weather dictates our work, and since there is no controlling it, embrace it. Skiing has been the game of choice for the Nebraska Knoll crew. We’ve been enjoying the wonderful snowpack and not quite warm enough sugaring temperatures while we have it. Of course, we are ready to boil at a moment’s notice. Through the stages of the season, these games have helped merge the gap between work and play.
Editor’s Note: The waiting game ended mid-morning as the temp zoomed up.
Yesterday, an edge to the weather; today, an edge to the voices.
-How did the door to the pump room get left open all night? There’s a layer of ice in everything up there. I hope it didn’t ruin the pumps.
-Are you blaming ME?
-I’m not blaming you, I’m just saying, HOW did that door get left open? It’s wide open.
By late afternoon, following hours of pump commotion, an electrician diagnosed a fried breaker. It fried when the frozen pump tripped on.
-Lucky we didn’t burn the place down.
How’s It Running? Slowly, but it’s finally running. Will it run harder and harder during this mild night?
The Night Hurdles: Deciding what to do about the frozen pipes that run from shed to shed to sugarhouse to tanks. Even the drain from the RO room is frozen. This is new. This is not good.