Posts Tagged With: spring

Say It With Me

Go ahead.

Say it.

You know you want to.

Tufted Titmouse

Titmouse.

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.

Tough Titmouse

It was 78°F outside (25.5°C) that afternoon and I started thinking my negotiating skills could use a little work.

A Warm April Afternoon

The threat of a vicious plucking doesn’t have me thinking about toting a shotgun when I cross the dooryard (maybe a tennis racquet)  but that ice was looking kind of feeble and I wondered how binding a promise is when that promise is to a Titmouse.

Other bird names sound just as made-up as Titmouse. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is one of my favorite silly names. It sounds funny, except when it doesn’t.

There are Coots and Boobies and Stints, Wandering Tattlers and Greater Yellowlegs (Lesser ones, too). Then there is the quadruple-entendre Bushtit and the (boom)Chachalaca. Throw in some Greenshanks, a few Beardless Tyrannulets, Cuckoos, Noddies and Snipe and there are hours of immature fun to be had with the bird-watching crowd. Don’t even get me started about Woodcocks.

Alas, new species of birds don’t come along very often (and the old ones have a way of disappearing) so the need for creative new bird names is quite limited.

A glance through fly fishing catalogs and magazines will convince anyone that those who tie flies are bound by no such constraints.

New patterns appear each year, whether created from scratch or as significant variations on a theme, and each of those new flies has a name. The need for names for new flies is virtually unlimited, but coming up with a catchy name no one has thought of requires creativity and deep thought. After all, once someone names a fly Rat Faced McDougal, what could be left?

Quack Doctor might have gotten a few chuckles, back in 1892, along with Cow Dung, when they were included in Mary Orvis Marbury’s “Favorite Flies and Their Histories”. Green Butt Skunk must have a story but I’ve never looked for it and I don’t know how the aforementioned Mr. or Mrs. McDougal felt about the whole thing.

Fly fishing has Boobies, too, along with other flies that lend themselves to innuendo, such as Stimulators, and Green Weenies. Others, like Bitch Creek Nymph are named by virtue of birthplace but are still fun to say.

I can only imagine what those who don’t fly fish think of those who do when they hear the names of some of our flies (or go poking through these pages). I learned early on that not everything I hear is quite as it sounds and I no longer faint like I used to when snippets of fishing camp conversations reach my ears.

Opening Day is the Saturday after next and I brace myself for eagerly anticipate the annual onslaught return of the anglers to Fish in a Barrel Pond. After six months of quiet, it takes some time to adjust to so many voices outside my head but it won’t be long before I can walk by a camp and not give it a second thought when someone yells, “What did you do to my Montreal Whore?” or, “Hey! Check out the size of my Meat Whistle!” or, “Where’s my Butt Monkey?”

To the ignorant or uninitiated, hearing such things might be shocking but somehow, to me, words like those are as much a sound of spring as peepers and song sparrows. Some of the men talk that way, too.

With less than two weeks to go before opening, me and the titmouses have not been the only ones watching the ice on the lake. Most haven’t been actually watching the ice; they’ve been calling and emailing to ask about it but it changes from day to day, even hour to hour, and I don’t get paid to stand around watching ice melt. The ice has been deteriorating — of that there is no doubt — but the changes can be subtle, at least when observed over the course of the average human attention span.

A camera on a tripod, however, can stand around all day.

And now, for something more dear to an anglers heart than Boobies or Butt Monkeys.

Say it with me:

Ice-out.

 

 

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

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. Continue reading

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

A Big Hot Metal Box

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.

Melt-Down

Melt-Down

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

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

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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

A Good Day to Make Syrup

(This video is hand-held and rudimentary, just like me. It includes free cheesy ambient music, also just like me.)

April 11 was the kind of day we deserve around here after the winter we just went through. Waiting for the ice to go off Fish in a Barrel Pond, I spent it stoking the fire at Bobo’s and attempting some video. The result:

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

No Fooling, These are the Good Old Days

It may sound cruel to stand by and watch something die, but this is winter we’re talking about and there’s nothing you can do to help it along. The thing is — and this also applies to things other than winter — you don’t want to go poking at it or looking too close too soon. Under the influence of syrup, my last post did just that and winter delivered a reflexive kick to the cranium, knocking spring right out of my mind and causing me to put down the shears, deciding the beard can stay for while — at least until I get tired of it or burn it off feeding the arch at Bobo’s. One or the other; I can’t decide.

Winter and spring duke it out as they do every year and, as ugly as things get, they both end up just looking silly. Meanwhile, the rest of us wallow out through the mid-day slop and bounce home over frozen ruts at night, feeling like the punchline in some kind of big cosmic joke. Continue reading

Categories: +The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society, Fly Fishing, Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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