Walking through the soft, melting snow of Bickford Woods Rd. I trudge along with another curious sugarer, Beth. An abandoned sugar shack awaits us just down the noll. How long has this shack been out of comission we wonder? The entire shack itself has a lean that most people wouldn't dare go inside, but crusasders like me and Beth felt we had a calling. An evaporator the size of King Kong extends a good 20 feet if not more along a cord of beautifully aged, dry wood. The boiling pans turned over as if they were closing off the stove. Looking around we find a newspaper from 1983 with an article about Ronald Regan. (Not the actor, the president.) After venturing outside we find the old logging/sugaring road. It starts just at a rotting gate and looks downward on a clear pathway to and beyond the sugar shack with maples on both sides. It looks as if it would have been a piece of cake to run this trail with oxen or horses. Maples that have to be at least forty years old tower over you head like skycrapers. Most of them look like something out of a Tim Burton/Sleepy Hollow flick. You can identify an old tap, but it's nothing but a tiny piece in the bark. The tree has entirely healed itself since the last year it was tapped. This property feels like buried treasure to me. Something I could only dream of ever owning or having a piece of. You can feel the presence of the sugarers that were heading up this operation and hear the roar of the flames that scorched this stove.
This past weekend D Acres and I hosted a workshop on the sugaring process here at Dorchester. At one point there were at least 25 people following me around, collecting sap and trying to fit in a sugar shack made for no more than three people. A day in the shack is a test of one's personal endurance, as I tried to explain to our guests. There were a few that came back around, but it was Kip and Veronica who stuck it out to the very end. Their enthusiasm made the process that much more rewarding. All in a days boil, 17 hours later, I am down to approximately 2 gallons of sap left. Just enough to bring into the house and start the morning off with the smell of maple syrup in the air. I make some billini's with frozen raspberries from our garden and get to taste one of the first batches I did. So far we're at the three gallon mark, with 50 more gallons of sap waiting for me to boil down tomorrow. Somebody asked me how long we would be in the shack for. I told them our motto is "we stay until we're done." There is no other job in the world that I have felt more satisfied completing than sugaring.
Peace out y'all. coolio (see you in the shack)