We’ve used fire in the past, as a symbolic cleansing of the year gone by, and also as a welcome to the year ahead. A good fire also provides entertainment, along with the possibility of excitement.
Posts Tagged With: Rural Life
Regular readers of these pages know how dedicated I am to style, as well as the dignity and respect with which I treat the subject. In fact, in 2013, an entire Flashback Friday post was dedicated to style — the appropriately titled Style Issue. Since then, we’ve covered style from head to toe, with posts about hats, men’s outfits, and even shoes, all with the seriousness such subjects deserve and the gravitas readers have come to expect from me.
The inspiration for today’s post comes from the pages of The New Yorker‘s recent Spring Style Issue — specifically, the third page in.
I have grown used to not being in a target demographic when it comes to such ad campaigns, and it’s probably just as well. The handsome young man in that Armani ad is wearing lovely shoes but I am struck by several things when I look at it. First, there is a smudge on the right side of the page. It’s barbecue sauce and, for that, I apologize. Second, that man’s britches seem a little short to me and, around here, anyone with pants that short and not wearing socks is bound to pick up ticks. Third, those shoes look expensive and I shudder to think what even a mild case of plantar hyperhidrosis might do to the silk linings. Talk about smelly dogs!
Things might be different if I lived in Rome, but those are definitely not the shoes for me or, for that matter, anyone else I know. I live in Vermont and, curious to see what kinds of fashionistas I’ve been consorting with, I set out with my camera last Saturday to record some of the fancy footwear I came across. Okay, I didn’t set out anywhere; I spent half the day and all damn night in a sugarhouse and took pictures of people’s shoes as they came through. Continue reading
You know you want to.
Some people can’t help but titter when they hear it or say it themselves, expressing child-like delight at making something so cute and delicate sound so nasty. A single Titmouse shows up at the feeders once or twice a season, events so few and far between as to be worth noting on the calendar. The other day they appeared in droves.
Well, maybe not droves. Probably not even a full drove, if you get right down to it, but the definition of drove is decidedly ambiguous so who’s to know? The point is, there was a dozen of them, which may not seem like many, but they were menacing.
It had only been an hour since I published my post about beard balm, where I wrote that the birds would have to wait if they wanted my winter whiskers for nesting material. The Titmouses came closer and closer and I began to think that maybe they didn’t want to wait, but how could they have known?
After a few photos (for identification purposes later, if needed) I struck what seemed, to me, a reasonable bargain with the Titmouses: In exchange for two cups of sunflower seeds a day in the meantime, I am allowed to keep my beard until the ice is off the lake. Continue reading
For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I’m still wearing my winter beard half-way into April. It is usually so beat up, brittle and tired by the time spring arrives that I just hack it off and hang it in a tree so birds can use it in their nests, but not this year.
My feathered friends will have to wait a while (maybe longer) until I am done with my beard. Yes, it’s kind of grown on me and no, I didn’t lose my clam shell, but my beard is near the top of the list of things that get me through winter and now I’ve found a way to get my beard through winter, too, thanks to Feared Beard VT.
Before anyone goes off the rails and starts in about doing a product review or questions my qualifications to write about grooming, I’ve done reviews here before (a list of them, and a disclaimer for this one can be found below) and this is me after all, so the term “grooming,” is used rather loosely. In addition, there is nothing ironic about my boots, my flannel, or my beard so don’t be thinking I’ve gone all hipster or something.
A trip around the lake on snowshoes (or six trips up and down the driveway behind the snowblower) can leave my beard full of ice, frost and frozen who-knows-what. I have yet to find any source recommending that sort of thing for any kind of hair. No silly scarves for me to keep my face warm, no sir, but all that freezing does take a toll.
Then, after the worst of winter is done and it looks like spring might be right around the corner, it’s time to make syrup so I spend hours and hours tending the arch, opening hot cast-iron doors and putting my face close to a roaring, searing fire — something else you won’t find on a hair care “do” list. You won’t find it specifically on a hair care “don’t” list, either, but not just because sugar house stokers are an under-served demographic.
The smell of burnt hair is thankfully rare but going to the edge of combustion on a regular basis is as bad for it as being frozen. All that extreme heat and serious cold, along with the naturally unruly behavior of long whiskers, adds up to a beard in need of serious help and I think you can understand why I am sometimes anxious to whip out the old clam shell as soon as spring arrives.
I’ve used different shampoos and conditioners, with varying results. I’ve tried oils for beards and oils intended for salads and didn’t like them one bit. Fly-aways, split ends and breaks were just a price to pay for having a hairy face when the nights turn hoary — until I saw a display at the Vermont Country Store last December, featuring beard balm from Feared Beard VT. Continue reading
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).
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.
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. Continue reading
The recent record-setting warm spell could not possibly last. It is March and this is Vermont, after all. Sap was still trickling down the hill as last evening’s boil ended at Bobo’s Mountain Sugar and, while the collection tank didn’t fill all the way, it had enough sap in it this morning to justify firing up the arch again.
Another justification for processing a not full tank is the fact that temperatures are predicted to drop to well below 0°F over the next few days. Anyone who has ever dealt with a thousand gallons of solidly frozen sap knows how that can slow down an operation. Everyone else can probably imagine.
As dependent on weather as sap runs are, boiling that sap into syrup can be affected, too. Barometric pressure has an effect on the boiling point of liquids and wind gusts to 50 mph have a strange way of preventing steam from leaving the building. Even with doors open.
It didn’t help that the outside air that did get in was cold and getting colder, and that it, too, turned to fog when it met the warm air rising from the arch.
The edge of a cold metal barrel is not really a comfortable seat but it will do. Lest readers get the impression I sit a lot, I don’t. Sometimes I stand and stare at the ceiling.
Mostly, my role in Bobo’s sugarhouse is stoking the fire and
drinking beer acting as a role model for children. Mostly, it’s stoking the fire.
The sap tank is empty, the arch is quiet and the plumbing is drained. There won’t be another run of sweet sap until this bitter cold blast has moved through, maybe by Monday they say. It was freaky foggy in the sugarhouse today, but not constantly. The fog came and went, as you will see below.
The four foggy photos above are part of a series, a series of 299 images which, when stitched together, form a time-lapse, boiling down two and half hours to thirty seconds. The big hairy guy even does a little dance.
Snowshoes were appropriate footwear on Bobo’s Mountain last Tuesday as the last taps went in, racing against a warm-up that promised a run of sap (see “Something is Running and It’s not Me“). The race was won, the sap was caught, and by Friday children were seen running barefoot.
Three feet of snow disappeared. Some simply sublimated but most of it melted, running noisily down the hill as runnels met rivulets and rills became brooks, braiding their way toward the river.
It turns out that this year’s first boil took place on the same date as last year’s but whether or not that means anything is still open to conjecture. By the time this first run was over, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 gallons of sap had been processed. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!”
“Some are born anglers; others have anglers thrust upon them.” ~Quill Gordon
The summer season is upon us and millions of people are hatching plans for a little recreation, adventure, and a chance to be closer to nature. The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond is dedicated to those who work hard so they can play hard in the Great Outdoors but it is especially dedicated to those who take care of them when they get there.
Here’s to the guides and drivers and pilots and the people who keep the roofs on. Here’s to the guys and gals who keep the water flowing properly (both in and out). Here’s to those who handle the reservations and scheduling. Here’s to the folks who make the beds and wipe whiskers from the sinks. Here’s to the outfitters, medical staff and rescue teams, the dish washers and cooks and the guys who clean septic filters. Here’s to the people who bang the nails and turn the wrenches, stock paper towels and stack wood. Here’s to the people who try their darndest to make things as right as possible when things don’t quite go as planned, dust everyone off and move on. Here’s to those who pick up the trash, fold the towels and clean unmentionable messes.
To everyone who works hard so others can play hard (or at least pretend to), here’s to you. Continue reading