Spring Black-out

For a while there in April it felt like we were on the verge of May. Then, March-like conditions swept in and we were on the verge of tears. It doesn’t seem fair, having one’s chain yanked like that, but that’s the way it is around here.

“… You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March…”

~From “Two Tramps at Mud Time” by Robert Frost

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you just sort of black out in mid-April and, before you know it, it really is the middle of May and swallows are chasing down mayflies among snowflakes.

swallows

It’s really more of a brown out (there are lucid moments) but it rolls through every year as I brace myself excitedly prepare for another season serving the fine folks of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society, their families and guests (see Flashback Friday: Opening Day). It is one thing to dread joyfully anticipate the return of the people who belong here but it is another thing altogether to deal with those who don’t (see Quill Gordon and the Nonesuch Mountain Howler).

mayfly

Optimistic cynicism (Cynical optimism?) is one of the things that keeps the curmudgeonly demeanor so important to my charm from swerving into the ditch of psychopathy, I think, especially when I ask people why they have parked with their bumper against the post supporting my No Parking sign (the only such sign within a two mile radius). I still hold out hope that I will some day hear something other than, “I wasn’t sure where else to park.”

Thanks in part to a relatively mild winter, just one camp along the shores of Fish in a Barrel Pond was certified “Mouse Free” when we opened this year, but that was only because it had been taken over by a family of weasels. The camp next door was like a rodent refugee camp and the return of the anglers was a boon unto them, what with all the dog food and Doritos™ they brought along (see If You Think a Mouse in a Bag of Chips Makes Noise … and also Mouse Pie).

Winter is done, spring has sprung and another season is under way at Fish in a Barrel Pond. It’s a chore to get things up and running in the small window of time allowed, but it happens every year and it is a expletive deleted true and humbling honor to do it in service of fly fishers, the finest, most up-standing folks on earth (go ahead, ask them yourself).

The sunlit arch at Bobo’s has been cold for nearly a month, after boiling down something like 57,000 gallons of sap into just over 1,000 gallons of syrup. The picture at the top of this post is from the end of the final boil of the season, when nearly every container available had been pressed into service. Whether you pour it on pancakes or do like I do and drink it straight up, Bobo’s Mountain Sugar 2016 is ready to go! Visit bobosmountainsugar.com and order yourself a few gallons.

Shifting gears without stripping gears can be tricky (does anyone know how to work a clutch any more?) but around here the transition is eased by having friends with sheep, walks in the woods and pre-season excursions on the water.

A few images from those lucid moments among this year’s chaos of spring:

 

 

 

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Frog Water

Phrenology is the study of bumps on a person’s skull to determine certain aspects of the individual’s personality and character.

Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.

The end of sugaring tends to come at about the same time amphibians thaw out and get active, so some sugar-makers call their final batches of syrup “frog water.” Appropriately, a small chorus of wood frogs was sounding off in the puddles as the fire was lit for an April Fools’ Day boil at Bobo’s last Friday afternoon.

April Showers

April Showers

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The First Day of April

The first shave of the season can be a traumatic event. Removing a full winter’s luxurious growth is no easy task, but sometimes my good friend Eugene‘s body hair grows through the weave of his long-johns and it’s the only way to get them off. Don’t worry, he’s fine; most of the trauma is suffered by those who have to hold him down.

Taking off the winter beard used to be a fine April Fool’s Day joke but I don’t always make it to town for anyone to see. At home, it just seems to scare the cats (and me, every time I walk by a mirror for the first day or two) but it’s become a rite of spring around here and it’s best not to mess with tradition.

I am naturally intrigued by new possibilities in drastic hair removal. Men have used clam shells, Bowie knives and multi-bladed monstrosities over the years to scrape their faces clean but the other night I came across a show featuring two handsome young men who struck me as the type to be completely hairless below the neckline. Admiring themselves in a mirror, they gave grooming tips that a man like me could certainly use.

It Took Forever and Hurt Like Hell

It Took Forever and Hurt Like Hell

I couldn’t hear everything they said about the importance of tweezing but I’d like to watch that show again because it might be possible they were talking about their eyebrows.

Fish in a Barrel Pond, April 1

Fish in a Barrel Pond, April Fool’s Day, 2016

 

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Duck Ice

Duck Ice (n): Ice that will hold a duck, but not much more.

While caretaking on an island on Lake Champlain, I heard stories about the caretaker on another island who strapped giant plywood duck feet to his shoes in order to walk on thin ice, just for fun. He was also known for “jumping chunks” to shore when his boat became mired in the pack ice each spring and he liked to drive back and forth on his ATV, stopping by with predictions of how much longer it would be “safe” to make a run to shore.

“You’ve got another six hours, easy,” he once told me, two days after I’d nearly scared myself to death making one last trip for supplies.

A Long Walk

A Long Walk

Those, of course, are geese, not ducks, making their way across the last of the ice on Fish in a Barrel Pond. Their wide feet distribute their weight somewhat, but even they run into problems from time to time. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugarhouse Saturday Night

Because the photo in the header of this post is severely cropped, the buffet table in Bobo’s sugarhouse can not be seen. The al fresco dining was featured two weeks ago in “Pickles, Cough Drops and a Bottle of Scotch” but they’ve been boiling like mad over there ever since and it should go without saying that the buffet table is stocked with an array of items that can be eaten by hand, on the fly. Pretty much everything available is made even more delicious by a drizzling (or dunking) of warm syrup but one wonders sometimes what else could be done with all that amber, sugary goodness.

New York City found out this week when Bobo’s Mountain Sugar was featured in the menu of the Maple Run, a dinner at the James Beard House, on West 12th Street. Not only do I expect to find Maple-Brined Pork Loin with Grits, Carrots, Almonds, and Maple–Mustard Jus  followed by Waffle Baba with Maple–Bourbon Syrup, Vanilla–Bourbon Ice Cream, Brown Butter, and Maple Meringue served up on the old wire spool next year, I expect to see Hot Dogs Boiled in a Sap Pan and Virginia Peach Moonshine with Vermont Maple Cocktails on the menus of fine restaurants everywhere. Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Maybe It’s a Vermont Thing

Sometimes it seems more than coincidence that I decide to post a photo, only to find someone else has posted a photo just like it, and so I don’t. Who needs another picture of a cattail or some tree bark or ice?

Maybe it’s a Vermont thing, marking the passing of time according to such subtleties. More than a few photographers and writers seem to hit on the same things at the same time, independently of each other, and the influence of place becomes apparent.

As proof, here’s a short list of blogs I follow because they, too, see the beauty of bare branches, find wisdom in stone walls and know where the first coltsfoot will bloom:

John Hadden Photography – We have a similar eye but he is much more punctual about posting. Of course, you have to get up pretty early to beat his East Street Weather Blog.

Leaf and Twig – Observation and Imagination Meet Nature in Poetry.

Stony Soil Vermont – A way with words I wish I had. Only a Vermonter could see past the mud to “sunlight so intensely bright it lay like shining gold coins on the shallow dips of water that spread out all around our house, as though we were a ship on a rippling sea.”

quotidiously/the spaces between – Nice images of simple things, often overlooked.

Welcome to Pairodox – Exploring the science and beauty of rural life. Farming, photos and some pretty nifty prose.

Over the last week or so, flowing water and cold night air have created some interesting opportunities with the camera and I know I’m not the only one who noticed. I hope I’m the only one who fell on his ass getting the shots.

(Click to enlarge)

An ancient stone dam

IMG_4921

IMG_4924

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4925c

IMG_4927c

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4929

 

IMG_4933

IMG_4935

IMG_4942

IMG_4942c

IMG_4943

IMG_4944

IMG_4951

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Pickles, Cough Drops and a Bottle of Scotch

Pickles, Cough Drops and a Bottle of Scotch

Pickles, Cough Drops and a Bottle of Scotch

A good run of sap has kept syrup makers busy and nice weather this weekend inspired quite a few folks to brave the mud for visits to their favorite sugar houses. From what I hear, the joint was jumpin’ on Friday and Saturday evenings at Bobo’s. By Sunday afternoon, when I got there to help finish off yet another boil, the place was pretty well deserted.

New Sap Coming In

New Sap Coming In

Even without an enthusiastic crowd looking on, the fire roared and sap turned to syrup. It wasn’t the sunniest of late winter days but the temperature was mild enough to cook outside, taking advantage of the well-apportioned outdoor grilling area. Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Here Comes Sugar Bob!

Here Comes Sugar Bob!

Here Comes Sugar Bob!

And there goes Sugar Bob, heading home for a long boil.

Heading Home for a Long Boil

Heading Home for a Long Boil

Sugar Bob makes maple syrup, gathering sap from stands he’s tapped all over the freakin’ place. You can hear his rig coming from a long way off, especially when he’s motoring through the mud with a load on. That sap is headed for a tank above the cabana, to be boiled down into syrup as only Sugar Bob can make it. I wouldn’t pour it on my pancakes, but Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind Smoked Maple Syrup is one of the greatest Secret Ingredients yet devised by Man.

Sugar makers don’t get to see each other much at times like this so Sugar Bob passed along his respects to the good folks at Bobo’s Mountain Sugar and I was happy to carry his message to the other side of the valley this afternoon. Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mud Season Started Today

There is always some uncertainty, once the leaves are off the trees, as to when, exactly, winter begins. Snow flies and cold wind blows but it’s not so bad crossing the dooryard or heading out for chores until, one day, a cuss word comes out and, gosh darn it, you just know it’s winter.

Even spring comes in fits and starts and the long-johns stay on until that fickle season regains our trust and we finally take them off (or cut them off when, as often happens with my good friend Eugene, our body hair grows through the weave over the course of the cold months). We don’t put them away for the season just yet, though; experience has taught us that they may be needed again before Memorial Day.

With Mud Season, however, there is no doubt and, in this neck of the woods, Mud Season started today.

Some people don’t believe in Mud Season, having never seen it for themselves. They wonder out loud how bad it could be and believe they could handle it, if they had to, but they don’t, and they can smile their smug smiles unchallenged.

Some believe it is real but, like trading blows with a kangaroo, aren’t sure they’d be up for it themselves and decide watching from a safe distance is probably the best option.

Some people see it for the first time and can’t believe it’s possible. Surely something can be done, if only we thought outside the box, but there is no box think outside of. The bottom has been dropping out for as long as anyone can remember, no matter what anyone has done, and Mud Season is a fact of life in rural Vermont.

If a spot gets particularly bad, a mention to the road crew will at least get some attention, but storming into the Town Office and declaring it is impossible to get around will gain you no good will, especially when your very presence disproves your point.

This morning at 10:00, when I headed out on an errand, our road was just fine. A few wet spots, maybe, but overall still frozen with a good sprinkling of sand. By noon it was a different story and the plot thickened as the day progressed.

Mud Season  is real and complaining will get you nowhere. It won’t even make you feel better. A good slog through Mud Season will send some people packing while others might hang on for another season or two, whining all the way. Everyone else will smarten up and adjust their lives, gaining a little something in the process as they learn to accept yet another thing they cannot change.

The first day of Mud Season, 2016, in slide-show form:

 

 

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Made in Vermont Hybrid Vehicle

A Hybrid of What, We Don't Know, But It's Got a Load On.

A Hybrid of What, We Don’t Know, But It’s Got a Load On.

Part Chevy, part who knows what, that’s a custom rig right there, sitting on my ice-coated driveway toward the end of a winter that made me wonder why I bothered with marker stakes. There may well be pieces of more than two vehicles involved, pieced together with ingenuity, baling wire and spot welds, and when it’s not wearing a plow on its nose it’s perfect for hauling and spreading sand (or, in this case, 1/4″ chipped stone). It has also been spotted in the village, in front of the pre-school, dropping off kiddos.

The weather has been a bit of a hybrid, itself, these last few weeks. Booger-freezing cold one day, rainy and almost warm the next, there have been pieces of at least two seasons involved and their bastard child is ice.

Coated

Coated

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 309 other followers