Rural Life

Something is Running and It’s not Me

Long-term weather forecasts can be useful but they are subject to change and not always accurate. A predicted period of snow showers followed by a slight warm-up can become 10 days of ice, snow and arctic winds followed by a drastic melt-down and, before you know it, the scramble is on. In this case, the scramble is up and down and across the slopes of Bobo’s Mountain, driving taps into every available maple tree before the sap starts running in earnest.

Making Tracks

Making Tracks

By mid-afternoon, sap was dripping from freshly drilled holes before spiles could be driven and drop lines hooked up. Licking a tree is not something normally done in polite company, but up on the hill, where nobody can see, why not? Faintly sweet and tasting of forest, those first drips are an elixir, pushing aside visions of snow drifts and cold, replacing them with thoughts of mud, hot fires and steam.

Across the Brook

Across the Brook

With all hands on deck, the last tap went in yesterday afternoon and the collection tank began to fill. Some of those hands, though, are a little worse for the wear, scraped by rough bark and sliced by sharp bits, all in pursuit of syrup.

Professional Hand Models, Bobo's Mountain Style

Professional Hand Models, Bobo’s Mountain Style

Today, the arch will be fired up to boil the first run of sap on Bobo’s Mountain, giving sore muscles and busted knuckles a break and allowing those hands to experience burns and scalds instead.

Bring on the mud!

 

Categories: Rural Life, Winter, Maple Syrup | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

From Other Places, Taking American Jobs!

The following item is the result of recent conversations with local activists. Some did not wish to be identified, fearing reprisals for not being “politically correct enough.” A few, however, agreed to be photographed in order to illustrate their plight. We ask that their privacy be respected and remind readers that, while the statements made and opinions expressed by these brave workers do not necessarily reflect the views of the management here at Fish in a Barrel Pond, their patriotism can’t be denied.

“I don’t want to sound racist or nothin’,” said an activist we’ll call ‘Roy’, “but they all look the same to me! It ain’t right.”

“Yeah,” added ‘Myra’, “especially when they’re all in a big group outside the store, practically begging to go home with people. It’s creepy.”

“Just look at ’em!” said Roy. “I think they’re into drugs, too!”

We Know Why They're Smiling

Why Are They All Smiling Like That?

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pink and Purple Pictures Because People Are Like Pistachios

Some are quite average and run of the mill. Some are pleasant, others merely tolerable, while still others exude goodness and make you wish there were more like them. Overall, as a group, they’re not so bad, even easy to take, but every so often one finds a bad taste in one’s mouth.

A really bad taste. The kind of taste there’s not enough root beer in the world to cancel. Jarring and traumatic, it lingers long after the initial shock has worn off, inspiring great trepidation at the thought of chancing another experience like it and putting one off one’s feed in general.

People are like pistachios. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | 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

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

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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

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