Balmy Days

Last week’s cold snap was forecast to end on Monday, maybe, but it didn’t happen. Tuesday, maybe, was a possibility but became a definite not. On Wednesday, however, the temperature climbed enough for the sap to run again, the tank filled, and the arch was fired up one more time at Bobo’s (boil #8).

Steam and Snowflakes

The stuff in the front pan, left behind from the last batch to “sweeten” the next, had frozen to slush due to its high sugar content, but the weaker stuff in the back pan was decidedly more solid and, according to the forecast, it’s going to happen again.

Not Exactly Sugaring Weather

Despite the snow and sleet, sap ran into the night and, in order to leave behind as little as possible to freeze, the fire in the arch was stoked until almost midnight. The shed has a lot of wood left in it, but prodigious quantities have already been burned. Opening the doors to feed the fire, especially when they are pulsating like angry cuttlefish, can be like flying into the sun, and closing them quickly — before one’s clothes burst into flames — can become a matter of some importance. Choosing the right pieces of wood can help expedite the process, but sometimes the wood just won’t fit.

What the heck, dude?

Split and stacked earlier this winter, by an intern from Chicago, this chunk of birch was called names before being heaved outside with a grunt and a few well-chosen words. He meant well, and I give him credit for having told me ahead of time that there were pieces like this in the stack, but I still think he sounded a little too gleeful as he did.

One more boil, another 40+ gallons of syrup and, now, another wait for winter to get done doing whatever it is it’s doing.

Wind-driven squalls sweep across the valley, with gaps in the clouds flying over so quickly it seems the very sunshine itself is being carried away on the breeze. The temperature is dropping and will continue to do so for at least a few more days but, from where I sit, things are rather balmy.

There’s the balm for a bent back and a knee that finds hyper-extension amusing…

Used by world-class athletes, weekend warriors and syrup stokers. Also repels cats.

There’s a balm that, while not its original purpose, is used by many people to treat dry, cracked skin on their hands and other places. It is also the secret to my soft, supple udder.

The secret to my soft, supple udder.

And then there’s a balm I consider to be a rare contribution by hipsters to the greater good for the benefit of all.

That was just a joke, hipsters.

After a winter of collecting frost and ice in the great outdoors, a man’s (or a woman’s) beard starts looking a little rough, but by alternating the directions I face when opening the doors to a fire, I manage to keep my beard (fairly) even. To keep it from feeling all stiff and brittle, a little beard balm goes a long way and scents like spruce and patchouli really help when one comes home smelling of singe.

Not everyone has the luxury of using extreme heat for grooming purposes but I’m sure there are benefits to be had for those who do not. And I honestly have no idea if the folks at Feared Beard are hipsters or not. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen a hipster, although I saw a guy once who I thought was dressed like a hipster. I asked him if he was a hipster but he said “no”, which struck me as kind of ironic.

Cast Iron and Stainless Steel

So, we bundle up and hunker down as winter throws another hissy fit, knowing full well that spring-like conditions will return. Just when is anybody’s guess, but it is March and anything can happen when it comes to the weather. Winter and spring will duke it out over the next few weeks, in a series of battles until spring finally wins. In the meantime, both will look like fools.

Like that hunched-over guy with the funny-smelling, lopsided beard.

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

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