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March 27, 2007

Stuck in Vermont 15: Maple Open House

Maple_2 The Sixth Annual Vermont Maple Open House Weekend was held at sugarhouses throughout Vermont, March 23-25, 2007. The Open House Weekend is an invitation to the public to visit one or more sugarhouses throughout the state.

I chose to visit the sugarhouse at my home away from home, Shelburne Farms.  A handwritten sign tacked to a bridge behind the Farm Barn pointed us up the hill.  At the crest we watched sheep munch on grass and breathed in the awe inspiring landscape of Vermont mountains set against the artful outline of the fairytale-like Farm Barn.

Down the Farm Trail, smoke was rising up from the sugar shack and kids were lugging buckets of sap.  About 400 people visited the sugarhouse Saturday and sampled hot syrup, learned about the sugaring process and ate syrup on snow.

Maple_10Sugar Maker Mark Klonicke gave us a hearty education in the complex Art of Sugaring.  Did you know it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup?  And some trees are sweeter than others?  Also, sap does not gush out of a tree, it drip, drip, drips - and the speed of its dripping is affected by wind and temperature. 

Also, when I asked Mark which grade of syrup was best, he chuckled and shook his head, "That's the sort of thing that sugarers stay up till 2am arguing about." 

When the sap is running "fast," the sugarhouse stays open all night long to make sure that not one precious drop of the sap is wasted.  When you are tapping about 550 trees and each tap only wields about 1 quart of syrup, you can bet that you'll save every last drop!  Shelburne Farms makes about 100 gallons of maple syrup a year so each drip is precious.

Maple_7It reminds me of Dune in which The Spice (which could also refer to oil) rules the world.  Mmmm...the magical syrup could probably start a war or two if we aren't careful...

Ethereal song entitled "Curling Pond Woods" by Greg Davis' off his beautiful album, Curling Pond Woods.  This song so perfectly blends with the sounds of the sugarhouse that I wasn't sure if the running water was part of the music or background noise - I am still not quite sure.

Note to self: Do not edit a vlog about tasty syrup unless you are prepared to eat some!  After eMaple_3_evaditing this vlog late last night, I was CRAVING pancakes and made some as soon as I woke up with some Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup.   Mmm...truly the nectar of the Gods.


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my family and i went to the very same sugar shack on sunday and talked to the same very nice men. julie actually knew the younger one, sam, from portland, OR! i wish i could live at shelburne farms and make maple syrup and have my own sheep. baxter (2 and a half) had about 4 shots of maple syrup too! i told the guy about how i drank lemonade flavored with Grade B maple syrup to keep my blood sugar level during my fast. i love grade B and i love your stuck in vermont vlog and i love being stuck in vermont, especially if i'm all sticky with grade B maple syrup!


I grew up on a dairy farm in Waterville, VT, and our family had a sugaring shack. My memories of sugaring involve more mud, sweat, cussing, cases of cheap beer in cans... and I don't think anyone gave a crap what grade tasted better, just how much money they might be able to make off it that year.

Personally, I think what grade is best depends on what you're using it for. You should use different grades for baking, pancakes, straight with some sharp cheddar, ice cream, sugar on snow, etc.


Syrup on cheddar cheese? I gotta try that!

Sugaring seems like a rough business. Especially when so little syrup comes from SO MUCH sap. A friend (who will remain nameless) whose family makes syrup said that she always threw out the buckets of sap with drowned mice in 'em and always felt guilty. That sap is golden!

I will eat any kind of grade - bring it on. But these days, am dousing my pancakes in Grade A Amber. Mmmm...


Ah ha ha ha...! I was thinking about drowned mice when I was writing that but decided not to mention it.


i forwarded this link to my fam since we'd all been there the day after you taped this. my 59 year old dad was mightily impressed. you've got a new fan who is stuck in malone, NY.

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