On this fortieth day of the season of Lent, the most quiet day of the year in the Christian calendar, the day between Good Friday and Easter, I will reprint an entry from the 2010 Sugar Season Blog.

The Far Corner of the Sugarhouse: As you enter the sugarhouse – just you – to the left is the smokestack ascending from the end of the arch (evaporator). The arch is 12′ by 4′, so walk the twelve feet, past the back pan and the front pan, to the other end.

Then round the corner of the arch and take one more step. The firebox door is now on your left, chunks of wood piled on your right. Behind the wood are double doors to the woodshed.

All of this you will noticed readily. The sugarhouse is built into the bank, so the wall facing you is concrete up to about six feet. Above that is a row of high windows.

To Clean the Ashes

In the dark corner,
against the concrete wall,
are the medieval tools,
black and silent.

There is the heavy, black iron rake;
it’s a right-angled piece of iron
with an eight-foot pole.

There is the heavy, black flue brush,
much longer and with a doughnut-shaped brush
at its end.

There is a crowbar.
There is a black square shovel.

To clean the ashes
you will want to put on
the sooty Johnson wool jacket,
the sooty wool hat to match,
ratty old gloves,
and a face mask.

Grab a flashlight.
Drag the ashes bucket
from under the arch
around to the firebox.

Reach for the rake in the corner, then
open the heavy, black door
of the firebox.
It will creak and groan.

Drag the long rake across the grates,
slowly,
rhythmically,
clankily,

feeling your way,
scraping across
centuries
of cold fire
and ashes.

 

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