One of our new crew members, Sarah Bailey, is today’s guest blogger. She writes:

Thriving (surviving) in the Sugar House

When the weather is right the hard work of the day bleeds well into the night. The wood needs stacking, the filter needs changing and has anyone checked the density lately? If the run lasts for a few to several days there is a noticeable weariness to the crew, not often in spirits but in sheer exhaustion. The lack of sleep becomes evident when the norm of clear instruction fades into grumbled suggestions and you catch a glimpse of someone resting their eyes (head) at one of the freshly filled warm barrels.

The work, being weather dependent, is in constant flux. One week may mean 13 hour days for a few days in a row and the marked lack of laundry and showering that goes with that, and the next week may consist of a lot less syrup stuck to your clothes or hair and a lot more skiing, sleeping in, and visiting with friends. While the weather may be unreliable, there are some patterns in sugarhouse operations that are consistent enough to count on. Among those certainties is the knowledge that when things are running smoothly it’s best to stay on your toes as you await the next issue.

Amidst the hectic happenings, with workers swirling around in much the same patterns as the steam leaving the cupola, you can stay sane and learn to thrive in the sugarhouse by remembering a few tricks. 

  • Save yourself a lot of elbow grease and note that boiling hot water is far more efficient at dissolving sugar than scrubbing.

  • Boiling water/sap/syrup/steam can and does actually burn skin- keep your gloves handy.

  • Syrup on the floor is slippery, use caution and a squeegee.

  • While you’re enjoying the maple steam facial, keep a water bottle near by and make sure to stay hydrated.

  • In addition to staying hydrated, you’ll feel better at the end of the day and work more efficiently if you’re well fed – luckily Audrey is a wonderful cook and everything tastes better with fresh maple syrup.

  • Seriously, don’t knock it till you try it! I’ve even witnessed hot syrup being poured over a cold tuna fish sandwich while the brave soul smiled in culinary bliss.

  • Indulge more than just your sense of taste – take in the aroma, color, the feeling of hot steam and cold air, and the feeling in your body after a long day of hauling pails from here to there.

  • Take the time to appreciate the process; unravel the richness of maple sugaring history.

There are many other things to keep in mind while working in a sugarhouse, and many practical tips that will make the work run smoothly, like remembering to open/close the right values before and after cleaning tanks, but in order to truly thrive (or survive) working at a sugarhouse you must simply carry with you abundant pluck.


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