Mud season

Photo Mar 10, 2 40 22 PM (Large)

March came in like a lion with another storm that dropped a foot of wet, heavy snow in many places in New England.  Then, being the fickle month it is, the sun came out and blessed us with a warm, bright weekend.  This late winter/early spring weather is how New Hampshire comes by its fifth season:  mud season.

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So on a brilliantly sunny Sunday we set out for our local farm to see if the saphouse was running – it’s that time of year.  As we rounded the curve on Mountain Road we were rewarded with the sight of steam coming from the saphouse roof, and the rule is that if they’re boiling, they are open for business. We parked, avoiding the puddles, and picked our way along the snowy path to the front door.

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This farm is glorious in March … nothing but leafless stick-trees and the timeworn shingled sugar shack.  It is beautiful in its stark simplicity. The sky was a royal blue, the ground a mucky mess, and the interior of the building a maple sauna.

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We were handed a small paper cup of fresh, warm syrup to sample as we watched the boiling process. The sap is poured into a stainless steel cooking bin, uncovered, that is set on top of a wood fire that burns long and hot.  As the sap is boiled the water content is removed, leaving only the syrup. The sugary foam forms bubbles on top, which is skimmed off.  The process involves lots of stirring and testing before the syrup is graded and poured into containers; the grading is based on color, flavor and consistency.

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Photo Mar 10, 2 49 24 PM (Large)Everything smelled of woodsmoke and maple.  Several other people were in the saphouse, joking and visiting, and we took some photos.  One man asked if we wanted him to roll the big wooden door halfway shut so we could see the generations worth of seasonal information penciled on it; we did, and he replied, ”Well since you aren’t professional photographers, I’ll do it.”  This brought some laughs, and one of the women said to us, “You just missed all the excitement!”  When we drove in we had seen a man traipsing around in the snow carrying a big camera and an even bigger tripod, and apparently he had come into the saphouse with a request.  He asked if they would move one of the sap buckets to another tree for him, presumably for photographic purposes.  While no one actually said if they honored his request, they finished the story by telling us that the tree he wanted the bucket moved TO was not a sugar maple!  So, heads up … if you’re flipping through a magazine and come across a beautiful photo of a sap bucket hanging from a birch tree, you’ll know the backstory.  Darn city folk!

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Photo Mar 10, 3 09 10 PM (Large)There are plenty of things New Hampshire isn’t in late winter …   Warm.  Green.  Thawed.  But if you want a little piece of maple heaven, this is the place to be.

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7 responses to “Mud season

  1. It looks excactly the same as when you took us there. I can still smell that yummy stuff. Too bad they don’t give you a whole jug of the stuff. I do remember the mud tho – also the pretty blue sky. Nice pictures.

  2. vintagefrenchchic

    What a neat old place. It would be so nice to have syrup that fresh! Oh..and fyi…we have mud season too! It is particularly fun when walking a little white dog daily. ; )

  3. You make the mud and twiggy trees sound so interesting.

  4. This is so wonderful. I’ve always wanted to experience a maple syrup farm, but there are none near me. Now I feel as if I was right there with you.

  5. Sorry for being out of touch lately ….but the skiing here in CO is really getting good (I’ve been busy). God knows they need the moisture! Just love the way you always seem to capture the ‘quaintness’ of whatever you’re shooting! I really DO wish I were there right now. I remember skiing JAY PEAK years ago in the spring time. They had long skinny ‘snow troughs’ about waist high next to the lift lines. They poured the hot syrup on the snow, and provided popsicle-like sticks to those who wanted to twirl up the hardening syrup to taste while riding up the lift. Wonder if they still do it today! ?? THANKS for the memories!

  6. It was a great day.I think we should forward it to Stephanie, Margaret, Rita & Raymond, Brian & Liz and Ulrich & Brigitte as they don’t have maple syrup in Europe and they will love it!

  7. I would LOVE to experience that in person some day! Sounds wonderful, and I’ll bet it smells wonderful, too. Love the professional requesting the wrong tree – too funny!

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