“There was a white frost last night,” said Chief of Operations this morning. “Nason used to love to tell me that. He’d reminisce about some year or other, more than once it was 1952, the sugar season all the old-timers still rave about. He’d say, ‘On March 28th we got a white frost and the buckets overflowed for two days; clear through to May 1st we got white frosts, but by then the syrup was buddy.'”
“Did the run completely shut off last night?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, it was a white frost.”
We miss Nason who died a couple years ago. His father tapped our hillside, collecting bucket sap with horses until he moved his operation up the road to a hillside with a southern exposure. Nason lived his entire life in this valley and could recall his eighty-plus sugar seasons as though they were written on the palm of his hand.
I don’t remember which year it was, but one sugar season we couldn’t figure out why the sap wasn’t running since the weather was classic and the woods were full of snow. “Too much wind,” said one old-timer.
“Well,” said Nason, “we had a year like this in 1957 and the problem was there was a drought underneath all the snow.”
When white frosts occur in the autumn, we say “the frost is on the pumpkin.”
When white frosts occur in the snowy months after a thaw, we can’t see them so we say “it froze last night.”
When white frosts occur after the snow is gone, then we get to say “there was a white frost last night.”
At 2:00pm Chief of Operations said, “Guess what problem I’m worrying about now?”
“What, did another pump break down?”
“The tanks are going to overflow soon. Even with the RO on, the tanks are nearly full after five hours.”
And it came to pass.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVELY:
7 pm “Get in line to take a swim in the [overflowing] tanks,” says Tom. He is stoking; Ross is learning to draw, which is like going from deck hand to ship navigator; Christian is running up and down stairs between the sap sheds as he babysits the tanks, trying to avert overflow trauma; Carly and Christian change the filter press; Alison and Laurie fill jugs (the grade is rebounding to Fancy); C of O is rinsing the RO; I am tasting syrup while Heather’s shepherd’s pie heats up in the oven; Joe is stoking now. Yummy, yummy, yummy, I’ve got love in my tummy is playing on the radio.
10 pm. “How’s it going?” the scribe asks. The crew is down to C of O, Ross, and Joe.
2 thoughts on “White Frost Wonder”
So nice that your are honouring your relationship with Nason, I never met him or even heard about him until your post a while back, I can feel in your writings the relationship, the old-school, incredible, maple stories and most of all the love that you had for him. Thank-you so much for sharing those deep feeling and your memories of Nason and his incredible stories, thats’s even sweeter than great maple syrup… whatever the year!
Please keep writing, you are an inspiration.
Sugarbush Hill Maple Farm
It’s good to hear from the Ontario contingent. If only I could capture Nason’s manner. He spoke in a mellow tenor monotone and stood with his arms and hands quiet or in his pockets, not making much eye contact. Always we conversed outdoors, standing around in the driveway or as he and his son and grandson casually pitched wood out of their truck. There was no rush, ever – for anyone – when Nason came by.
Good luck with the season,