Up in the woods tapping maple trees on a recent sunny day, crew member and resident folklorist Lawrence Lackey happened to glance uphill and could scarcely believe his eyes. Why, it was the phantom tapper! LL (as he is known in these parts) later sang to the crew what he recalls of The Ballad of Morningside Slim.

Nebraska Knoll legend
tells of Morningside Slim
gliding silently through the bush
from sun-up to sun-down.

Morningside Slim [LL photo]

…setting taps
with his superior stature
beyond the reach of all mortals.
save the Brothers Hutchins.

Fortunate were those
to whom he would lend an ear,
banter indulge,
or merely nod in concurrence.
But, sugarers’ gossip he would not divulge.


I, your Blog Editor, feel no qualms about divulging a little sugarers’ gossip, or, shalI I say, complaints?

-Where the heck did winter go? Last weekend people moaned and groaned about two days of frigid temps, but two days is nothing! Remember how January used to be 10 degrees or colder except for the January thaw? Now we get a whole month of thaw with a short January freeze.

-I’ve been saying for years we’re gonna start seeing Connecticut winters…

-It used to be that if you were tapped by Town Meeting Day [first week of March] that was good enough.
Now if you’re not tapped by Groundhog Day you’re in trouble.

-Mmmm, I’ll bet Howie has filled 10 drums by now. Didn’t he say he started tapping January 3rd?


What helps overcome climate anxiety?

The ritual of gathering tools and strapping on snowshoes.
The ritual of tapping sugar maple trees. [LL photo]
The ritual of looking up. [LL photo]
The ritual of curiosity. “Are these bear scratches,” asks Ingrid. [IJ photo]

Ritual or not, this resident complied with the Pedestrian Crosswalk ordinance. [LL photo]
The ritual of remembering how to spell ‘graupel,’
as in “This tree is nearly knee-deep in graupel.”
[LC photo]

And then there are all the rituals others enact sans photos down at the sugarhouse:

Shoveling –
The stairs to the sap shed
The stairs from the road to the upper sap shed
From the lawn to the outer house faucet
From the lawn to the house woodshed
The stairs up the stone wall to important gate valves,
A path along the side of the sap shed to important gate valves,
A path to a drain below the clothesline.

Scouring sap tanks with clumpy snow. (One of my favorite things.)
Setting up hoses.
Tossing out mouse-shredded work gloves.
Pulling Johnson wool jackets out of the cedar chest.

And twelve hours more of little, once-a-year rituals.

All the taps are in. Once a year – this year on February 12th, our earliest date ever – Chief of Operations plugged the mainlines into the sap shed. [LL photo]


—You wouldn’t believe what happened in the pump room today.
—Did it flood?
—Sap cascaded over the threshold and down the stairs to the sap tanks. The worst ever.

What goes around comes around.

8 thoughts on “Tapped by Valentine’s Day and None Too Soon

  1. Thanks to technology Larry and Clairmonde in Oregon were able to chuckle at the photos and good writing and marvel at all the detailed hard work.


  2. Very happy to see the blog back up and running. Up here, it’s been a ludicrous hustle and bustle to get ready for an absurdly early run, with a forecast that looks decidedly more wintry after Monday. Our run seemed to accelerate through the day yesterday and into last night, and it looks like the RO has to go back together this morning. Good luck these next few days!


  3. Hi Ben, Ludicrous and absurd, indeed. Lew heard HH say while hanging around in the sugarhouse that you were not boiling but were stacking your sap. After the boil we got to ruminating on this. Could you be stashing sap? Stocking sap? We are intrigued by the image of stacking sap. It’s playful. (Bear in mind that Chops is deaf in one ear and can’t hear out of the other.) All for now. We are stacking sap for tomorrow’s boil. AC


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s