Mad Marchness

When the lion of winter lashes out like it’s wounded, roaring with cold, and the lamb of spring kicks up wet showers, those who live where the two meet get pelted with ice balls. Back and forth it goes every March, and we know spring will eventually prevail, but so far this year, March belongs to winter.

The Road to Fish in a Barrel Pond

The Road to Fish in a Barrel Pond

When snow is followed by rain and the rain is followed by sub-zero cold, an icy crust develops. When that cold is followed by more snow and more rain, the best term to describe conditions is “glaciated”. We are encased in ice.


roof ice


Maple sap runs best when daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temperatures fall well below. Day and night, we’ve spent a lot of time below freezing lately, and the sap has barely crawled, let alone run. Over on Bobo’s Mountain, a couple of relatively mild days resulted in a few hundred gallons of sap making their way to the bulk tank, where they froze overnight into a sweet, solid block. My friend Tina describes the situation in her post titled, “Ice Out”. (Poke around while you’re there, get to know the place and the people involved and order yourself a big old jug of sweet, maple goodness.)

With nothing but record cold in the short-term forecast, Skye used a propane heater to melt the sap in the tank and on Saturday evening the first boil of 2014 commenced.

Sugarhouse Saturday Night

Sugarhouse Saturday Night

 Squalls of sleet and snow blew through and wind-shredded clouds scudded past in the moonlight as steam billowed through the open vents in the roof.

Steam Billows Into the Darkness

Steam Billows Into the Darkness

Stoked every few minutes, the fire in the arch roared and the sap in the pan came to a boil. Thick leather gloves gave off wisps of smoke against the hot cast iron doors, the temperature in the pan climbed to 219F (103.8C), and then the science kicked in.

Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

Scalding hot, sweet and sticky, it’s not syrup until its density is just so. Slow dribbles were drawn and checked until finally, with sleet bouncing off the window panes, a smile appeared and a cheer went up. The first syrup of the season was ready!

Happiness is a Warm Jar

Happiness is a Warm Jar

Nowhere near a full batch, the point of this boil was to get the tanks emptied before this week’s deep freeze set in. Milder weather by the weekend should bring another run of sap and, when it comes, Skye and Tina will be ready to fire things up in earnest so everyone can celebrate spring with “A Taste of Tree”.

(Astute readers of this blog may recognize that jar as having once held weapons-grade head cement thinner for tying flies. The “B” on the lid indicates it was blackberry flavored, in case of emergency thirst, and we have no problem re-using the jar for syrup due to the self-sterilizing properties of the previous contents.)


The Road to Town

The Road to Town

The Road Home

The Road Home


Not a Black and White Photograph


No, really. Full Color.

Fish in a Barrel Pond, March 12

Fish in a Barrel Pond, March 12

Opening Day is 40 days away …

Categories: Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Post navigation

13 thoughts on “Mad Marchness

  1. BuggyD

    Quill, seeing your “full color” photos of your local surroundings only makes me realize even more how color-starved I am! Could really use some of those Carribbean colors about now! Had some Bobo’s syrup on our blueberry pancakes yesterday morning–DEElicious!

    • Blue jays are about the most colorful thing around here these days. Thank goodness we’ve got 400 of them!

      When you see the locals wandering around looking stunned in the spring it’s not just the realization they’ve survived another winter. The change from monochrome can be shocking.


  2. Idaho steel

    “Weapons grade head-cement thinner…”

    Also appropriate for the curing of hides, preserving of fence posts, the removing of stubborn shower stains, and as emergency starting fluid for recalcitrant outboard motors, not to mention their owners.

    • And blowing stumps.

      • Idaho steel

        Ah yes, stumps. Dare I ask, is the vital fluid used (as we in the trade would say) as an “accelerant,” or merely to keep the help happy and well lubricated during the manual-labor phase of the process?

  3. Pete

    It’s been a tough winter even for us flat landers. Hang in there my friend. Soon the sap will flow, the blackberry flavored head-cement thinner will be made anew and life will be good as it always is.

    • When it comes to winter around here, one can embrace it, endure it, or leave. We started out embracing it but lately we’ve endured about enough. No one here will admit that to a flatlander, though …

  4. mark

    HAHA The “B”!

  5. The weather does not sound pleasant, but the maple syrup sure does :^)

  6. The syrup makes everything better.

    As I was slipping and sliding across the dooryard yesterday I was debating the merits of other places and decided I prefer my ice to dust storms, drought and tumbleweeds. 😉

  7. Is there by chance, any Weapons Grade Maple Syrup available? Nice story and great pics! Mother Nature is being kind of a Bitch with winter this year.

  8. Pingback: Little Mister Sunshine | The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond

Cast A Line

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: