Out the window on this Monday morning after the final day of the 2018 Olympics, a squirrel sprints across the snow. Old Blue, the 1964 International truck that is not blue but green, rests angled beside the stack of pine chunks harvested from the road the day after the Halloween Wind Storm.
Winter looks raggedy. Dull old snow, frozen then thawed then frozen, clutches the hillside. All
that gleams are strips of sap tank in the upper shed exposed above and below Maeve McGovern’s painting of maple trees half lit by moonlight. This sap shed, perched well above the sugarhouse on the old state log landing, gets the morning sun first. We call it The Altar.
Sugar season, or The Nebraska Knoll Games, began three weeks ago today, February 5th, with tapping. It still doesn’t feel right to begin tapping in early February rather than in late February, but given the New Weather, namely, weekly thaws, we’ve got to adjust or risk missing major sap runs. We call this winter a Connecticut Winter: all the plow guy does is sand rather than plow. Connecticut isn’t known for sugaring.
Veteran crew member Ross Scatchard tapped 60-70% of the sugarbush himself. For this he won the Gold. He won a second gold for the most spins of the cordless drill in one day: 604 (one spin = one tree tapped). Unprecedented -and such agility, grace, and poise..
Where was Chief of Operations? For this story, we return to the Wind Storm of 2017. Cleaning up the sugarbush after the storm set him back a month on the custom carpentry projects to which he had committed. Thus, up until the afternoon of February 19th, the day we pushed to finish tapping before the heat spike, Chief of Operations toiled over finicky cabinets in his woodworking shop, exploding with frustration.
The tapping team raced against the weather. Instead of urging the team to tap faster, we just added athletes to the team. On that final day, the team was up to seven (Ross, Metzi, Robyn, Bob, Cy, Lew, Audrey). On other tapping days, bit players included Christian, Carly, Emily, Kelly, Leah, and Lori.
Yes, assembling a core crew has been a problem. Potential crew members have gone zinging out like the skaters in the short-track speed skating events.
We got tapped in time, we didn’t lose sap! The heat wave came and went. The red-faced stokers persisted. Many things went wrong, as usual. We made syrup. It is delicious.
And so is the sap, surprisingly sweet so far.
As always, the central story is The Weather. The forecast calls for short freezes at night and 40’s by day. We must look at the calendar to keep ourselves oriented. It’s February, not late March or April.
We will boil today.