WEATHER: A fortuitous ordering of fresh snow (6″), freezing nights, sunny days, and the slightest of NW breezes..
HOW’S IT RUNNING? A decent run on chilly overcast Saturday, robust runs yesterday and today. Chief of Operations notes that not a single morning this year has the ice belched out of the lines; there have been none of those initial surges that overwhelm the vacuum system. Why not? No one seems to know.
BOILING STATUS: A 2:30am finish to Sunday’s boil. The syrup coming off the arch was so light and smooth (“Coty cognac” said neighbor Peter) that we couldn’t bear to stop until all the sap had been boiled.
MUSIC TO BOIL BY: The Duhks http://duhks.com/, a Canadian group that crew member Joe likes. I had never heard of them but I want more; their sound blends well with the steam.
WHAT WE GOT TO TALKING ABOUT IN THE SUGARHOUSE:
In a nod to the April 1st snow storm, master stoker Tom Silva (see blog header photo) reminisced about his annual sighting of snow buntings.
“I look for them every year around the second week of February,” he said. “They fly south from the Arctic and stop to eat corn from the stubble in farm fields. This year it was a huge flock, over 200 birds, and what a sight. I saw them pecking at the snowbanks for gravel and salt. Snow buntings are finches; I’d say they are larger than a chickadee but smaller than a robin. Funny, I’ve never heard their call.”
Passages of beautiful writing sleep between the covers of a massive hardback book on the bookshelf called Birds of America, first published by the Audubon Society in 1917. This gem includes writings by many ornithologists (notably all men) and illustrations by Louis Agassiz Fuertes.
Here is one. Note that one sentence makes up half of it.
“The only one of our winter birds that really seems a part of winter, that seems to be born of the whirling snow, and to be happiest when storms drive thickest and coldest, is the Snow Bunting, the real snowbird, with plumage copied from the fields where drifts hide all but the tops of the tallest weeds, large spaces of pure white touched here and there with black and gray and brown. Its twittering call and chirrup coming out of the white obscurity is the sweetest and happiest of all winter bird sounds. It is like the laughter of children. The fox-hunter hears it on the snowy hills, the farmer hears it when he goes to fodder his cattle from the distant stack, the country schoolboy hears it as he breaks his way through the drifts toward the school. It is ever a voice of good cheer and contentment.”
–John Burroughs, nature essayist and conservationist, 1837-1921
[It is possible to purchase the masterpiece Birds of America on Amazon or at Abe Books. AC]