Posts Tagged With: Vermont

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.

BTUs

BTUs

Drip Test

Drip Test

There is a funky earthiness to the first steam of the first boil that smells nothing at all like syrup. As it boils, clear sap starts to turn brown and sugars concentrate. Eventually, the aroma is more like the familiar mix of wet wood and vanilla but the concentration of sugars signaled by that change can take a while to reach. Every batch of syrup from here on will start with some of the previous batch, intentionally left behind to “sweeten the pan.”.

First Steam

First Steam

A Big Hot Metal Box

A Big Hot Metal Box

The Other Side of That Big Hot Metal Box

The Other Side of That Big Hot Metal Box

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows and I don’t need no giant squirrel to tell me winter ain’t over, but a hint of spring is always welcome this time of year.

Sunset from the Sugarhouse

Sunset from the Sugarhouse

With temperatures above freezing four nights in a row, the first sap run of the year had become a mere trickle when it fizzled to a close late Saturday as a cold front blew through. Both trees and people could use a little break, to recharge and get ready for the next sap run in a season that could end without notice.

Some 2500 taps produced around 7000 gallons of sap over the course of four days, and some 100+ man and woman hours were spent tending pumps and filters, stoking fires and avoiding scalding liquids.

The Place To Be On A Friday Night

The Place To Be On A Friday Night

While cold rain and snowflakes streaked sideways on a chilly west wind, Boil #4 of 2017 slowed to a simmer and then went quiet as the fire in the arch died down. Doing the math in one’s head, while skidding, sliding and bumping down a rutted mud road on Saturday night, was not as hard as one thought it might be, and the conclusion was reached that 130 more gallons of Vermont maple syrup had been wrought forth in the past few days.

Minus a quart or two for the help, of course.

(Editor’s Note: Here is the link to the official web site of Bobo’s Mountain Sugar. Bobo’s is also on facebook¬†and Instagram, too. I just work there.)

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

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

A New Gallery and Tips for Photographing Snowflakes

One in a Gazillion

One in a Gazillion

Embrace, endure, or leave. Those are pretty much the choices when it comes to winter in Vermont. It is not uncommon for those who stay to find themselves wavering between the first two choices, while those who left are content to look at the pictures.

Drifting Among the Drifts

Drifting Among the Drifts

That’s a lot of snowflakes and, like my daddy always said, “When life gives you lemons, shut up and eat your lemons,” although in this case it’s snowflakes, not lemons.

Group shots of snowflakes can be tricky, especially on a sunny afternoon, but individual portraits are more interesting. The most famous snowflake photographer of all has to be Wilson A. “Snowflake” Bentley, a resourceful farmer from Jericho, VT, who became the first person to photograph a single snow crystal in 1885.

Photography has come a long way since Snowflake Bentley hooked up a microscope to his big bellows camera and exposed individual glass plates. Gear was just part of the equation, though. Snowflakes are small, fragile, and temporary, so conditions and technique were also important. They still are, no matter what kind of rig you use. With almost as many camera variations as there are snowflakes in my dooryard, I’ll leave that part up to you.¬†Getting those snowflakes in front of your lens, keeping them there, and having a chance at a decent photo is what this post is about. Continue reading

Categories: Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Spreading Something Other Than Ugly

An inquiry regarding a mayfly photo last summer triggered a furious search, which is ongoing. The photo in question resides among some 10,000+ images I’ve taken over the past few years, which someone is finally taking the time to catalog, tag and edit. At least a thousand pictures weren’t worth any words at all, other than “delete” because they were so hopeless but, even at my most ruthless, thousands more have thus far been spared.

That particular mayfly hasn’t been cataloged yet but many others have been and it’s only a matter of time before I find it again. After all, what good is a photo if you can’t find it? And what good are hundreds of others if no one is going to see them?

The answer, of course, is that they are no good at all.

I could dole them out, one at a time, on a blog that is updated sporadically at best, but that would take years; I could post them here in big batches, sure to overwhelm while serving no particular purpose; I could just leave them where they are, the way they are, and do nothing at all.

Or, I could spend some frigid mornings and long, dark winter nights building a place to hold some of the best pictures I’ve got, where anyone and everyone can see them, any time they want.

A place like Nonesuch Mountain Images.

Five galleries are up, with additional images and galleries to come. All images are copyrighted. Larger (printable) file sizes are available for purchase as licensed digital downloads for personal or professional use.

You might notice there are no (visible) identifiers or watermarks displayed. Heck, there’s even a little button to click if you want to share them with someone else. Please do. There is plenty of ugliness in the world so why not spread a little something else? Just remember they’re mine and at least link back or give credit where credit is due, please.

Clicking a photo below will whisk you away to that photo’s gallery page at

Nonesuch Mountain Images

How about a gallery of mayflies (which will always be one image short until I find the one that started all this)?

Sulphur Dun, Nonesuch Mountain Images

Maybe some loons?

Loon Looking Silly, Nonesuch Mountain Images

Dragonflies and Damselflies are always interesting…

Green Darner, Nonesuch Mountain Images

There will be additions, but here are some of the rare and more unusual wild flowers I come across:

Purple Fringed Orchid, Nonesuch Mountain Images

Purple Fringed Orchid, Nonesuch Mountain Images

It won’t be long before the sap starts to run and the arches are fired-up for another sugaring season. More pictures! More syrup!

Late-Day Steam, Nonesuch Mountain Images

Late-Day Steam, Nonesuch Mountain Images

It used to be called “shameless self-promotion” but it’s called “branding” now, I guess. Nobody’s offered to cough up 17-million dollars to put my name on their building yet, so words and pictures are about all I’ve got.

Enjoy.

Categories: +Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hoar Frost

Sometimes, even winter holds its breath and, in the cold stillness of a winter night, water vapor changes from gas to solid on contact with chilled surfaces, constructing crystal matrices resembling feathers that last until the sun hits them or somebody coughs.

The adjective “hoary” is sometimes defined as “gray or white, as with age, and in some cases worthy of veneration”. It can also mean “old, overused and trite” but with frost it supposedly refers to the appearance of an old man’s beard.

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Tomorrow will have one minute more light than today, and when tomorrow becomes yesterday there will be one minute more as we begin tilting slowly back toward the sun. Meanwhile, it is winter, and even winter can hold its breath.

Yukon Jack, “The Black Sheep of Canadian Liquors” and purported to be the regimental liqueur of the South Alberta Light Horse regiment of the Canadian Army, claims a “taste born of hoary nights…” which probably means it was too dang cold out to go find some better whiskey, so someone mixed what they had with some honey in an old turpentine barrel and hoped for the best.

Something else born of hoary nights is the poetry of Robert Service. There are worse ways to spend the next nine minutes of your life than watching this video recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”:

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Little Snowflakes

Months of quarrels and quandaries, intrigue and innuendo, distractions, misdirection and outright prevarication finally came to an end and I found myself, one November morning, strangely relieved it was over yet wondering what the heck had just happened. It seemed surreal and nearly beyond belief, but once sober enough for thoughtful reflection, I knew it was very real, indeed, believe it or not.

The adrenaline wore off, shock set in, and I had to sit in order to contemplate the new, horrible, sad reality.

That’s right, friends, another season had come and gone here at Fish in a Barrel Pond.

Fish in a Barrel Pond

Fish in a Barrel Pond

The banshees of winter wail outside the door, the lake froze-over three weeks ago, and anything stuck to the ground now is stuck until spring. The camps are again empty and quiet, smelling only of cold air and anti-freeze in the drain traps. A little happy dance has been done, a nap has been took, and as I catch up on my reading I can’t help but notice that this job, once more, failed to make any major publication’s list of “Best Fly Fishing Jobs!” Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, politics, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 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

An Unpredictable Hatch

There is comfort in knowing that, just before dusk of a mid-June evening, mayflies will emerge above the silt flats off Exile Island. For twenty minutes, it’s the closest to a sure thing we’ve got around here, at least when it comes to fishing. Hatches come off, not quite like clockwork, but with enough reliability that some anglers are confident enough to head over early to sit and wait for the show to start.

Once the heat of summer sets in and the “major” hatches end, it gets trickier, but one can still find certain places at certain times to pick up a few fish rising to one thing or another (as in “you’ve got one thing and they want another“).

The majority of flies flung upon and into Fish in a Barrel Pond represent life forms that originate or live in its water. The places they live are places where fish congregate. Find those places and another part of the puzzle falls into place.

My favorite hatch is not really a hatch at all. It involves insects that are desperately trying to avoid the water in the first place, and conditions must be perfect, so it happens only as the result of tragic accidents.

Winged Ant

Winged Ant

Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Angler’s Guide to Bar Glasses and Beer Goggles

For some, alcohol is an important part of the overall fishing camp experience, and I often find myself being reminded of the need for proper glassware to more fully realize the potential enjoyment of the finer things in life. More than once I’ve heard, “Why are there no glasses for red wine? These are all for white!”

Only once have I replied to an indignant angler, “Drink your Merlot from a mug like a man!”

I shouldn’t have. She was offended, and with good reason, of course. Any fool would have known she was drinking a bold Cabernet. Continue reading

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Same Old Thing

There is a lightning-scarred hemlock on a “corner,” where a small cove projects from the main body of Fish in a Barrel Pond. I know that casting a red humpy into the shade of that tree will often bring a trout rocketing to the surface from six feet down, up the face of a submerged ledge. If a humpy doesn’t do it, a fluttering stimulator usually will.

Down the shore a bit, that same ledge is more exposed, and it’s always worth skating an elk hair caddis over the drop-off on a warm afternoon. Adding a pupa imitation, about 18″ down, can add to the excitement, creating the potential for double hook-ups.

In the gloaming of a late spring evening, yellow drakes can come off so thick that it’s tempting to catch one fish, to show I can, and spend the next fifteen minutes just watching the orgy. Anglers lucky enough to hit the Hexagenia hatch will talk about it for years and if they never hit it again they’ll say things aren’t like they were in the old days.

I am always ready for the ant falls of August, carrying imitations as early as Opening Day, and I like going out on gloomy days because drizzly afternoons bring hatches of blue-winged olives.

blue-winged olive

Stylishly Fringed Wings

It’s possible to scare up a trout or two more often than not and, after ten years of fishing this one small lake and nowhere else, things are sometimes so dialed-in that it almost appears I know what I’m doing. Dark visions fill my head of ending up some earth-bound Mr. Castwell, doomed for all eternity to catch those same fish at the same corner “for ever and ever.” Continue reading

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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