Tag Archives: spring

All things maple

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New Hampshire sugar shacks fired up their evaporators this weekend and opened their doors to the public for Maple Weekend 2015. There was a long list of participating sugarhouses throughout the state, so today I chose one not too far from here and took a Sunday drive under brilliant blue skies.

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This particular farm, about an hour away, was set amid a network of dirt roads. They had horses, chickens, two golden retrievers, and the friendliest cat in New Hampshire. The young woman who was boiling the sap said in a good year they do about 125 gallons of syrup, but because of the very cold weather they’ve done just a fraction of that this year. With a window of only 5-6 weeks, losing even one week’s time can put a big dent in the production.

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With the goal of educating the public on how maple syrup runs from tree to table, the process was explained to the onlookers in the sugarhouse and we were offered maple doughnuts, sugar-on-snow, and taste-testing. All were approved!

Photo Mar 29, 10 59 42 AM (Large)

Photo Mar 29, 10 56 46 AM (Large)

Now loaded up on sugar, I made my way back to the car and came across the previously mentioned friendly cat. In fact, he was so friendly that after a few head-pats he assumed he could go home with me.

I think not, kitty. Had a heck of a time getting him out of the car.

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The next stop was completely unplanned; I found the next sugarhouse as I was making my way back to the main highway. It was also in a highly unusual place: directly across the street from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway! (I suppose it’s a great spot to be selling maple products to the tens of thousands of tourists who flock here several times a year.) This was actually more of a gift shop, but they were boiling sap in the back room with a huge, shiny-new-looking evaporator. In the front, though, was live music and a crowd of people.

Photo Mar 29, 11 54 26 AM (Large)

Photo Mar 29, 11 53 54 AM (Large)

My third stop was our local sugar shack, just around the corner from where I live, and still my favorite. Many generations of the same family have collected and boiled sap off their land here. I stopped for photos only – I love the sight of the hundreds of silver sap buckets hung from the stick-bare trees amid the snow and mud, and the sound of the drip-drip-drip hitting the metal. It’s the classic image of spring (or, as they like to call it here, Mud Season) in New Hampshire.

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So how would I sum up this sunny Sunday?

Sweet.

 

 

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In praise of mud

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The switch has flipped.

The calendar turned over to April and our temperatures have finally warmed up … you’d have to go back to last November to find a day warmer than today. There is light at the end of the neverending-winter tunnel. A ray of hope that we’ll soon see springtime daffodils, chirping birds, green grass …. or at least mud season. April first marks the day when bird feeders come back in the house, unless you want to provide a snack for a hungry, sleepy bear. It also is the day when bobhouses have to be off the lake, signaling the end of ice fishing. Word is that the ice in 19 Mile Bay is still 27″ thick, sparking theories that 2014 may have one of the latest ice-out dates ever. The record is May 12, which occurred in 1888; depending on what happens in the next thirty days, that date may be challenged this year.

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Roads are heaved from frost, meaning driving anywhere takes longer than usual. Load limits are posted on side roads. A small stream has developed alongside my property, heading down the hill towards the lake. A half-dozen deer are regularly congregated in my yard, looking for food and escape from the snow in the few bare patches of ground next to the woods.

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I like the smell of the mud, of the frozen earth letting go, of the boiling sap and woodsmoke that go hand-in-hand with the warming breeze. We’ve made it through, again. Spring is almost here.

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How-to list for June

P1150312 (Large)How to hide a tractor

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How to be amazed by nature

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How to appreciate the rain

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How to shop

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How to spend an evening

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How to anticipate the summer months to come………

 

If the tree in the kitchen is gone, it’s spring

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In many ways this is possibly the nicest week of the year.  The sun is bright, the sky is blue, and the weather is warm.  Maple trees are tinged with red flowers.  Yellow is the color of the season – forsythia, daffodil, and sunshine.  That rumble on the road is a tractor instead of an oil truck.  Ferns are unfurling gracefully from the earth.  And driving in to work this morning I see there are a few trees just beginning to show some green leaves.  Hallelujah.

I keep plants in the back bedroom over the winter – indeed, they are scattered all over the house to wait out the cold.  In my kitchen I keep the seven-foot-tall Brugmansia, mainly because I cannot move the enormous pot any further.  Today it went back into the screen porch, soon to be moved to its summer home on the deck.

So begins the growing season in New Hampshire: short, sweet, and hopeful.

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Close encounter of the furry kind

There have been three deer hanging around the village here recently … I think it is a doe and two youngsters.  I see them often in the field across the road, or IN the road early in the morning, and occasionally in my yard.  This afternoon I happened to be walking past the front door (door open but storm door closed on this beautiful almost-spring day) and was just in time to see this unusual encounter.

My black cat, Buzzy, was sitting on his favorite big rock out by the frozen pond and surveying his kingdom.  Just then the three deer came out of the woods, face to face with him.  It was at this point that I grabbed my camera and started shooting through the storm door glass.

I have no idea what the cat was thinking, but he went into the stalking mode he normally reserves for chippies.  The tail fluffed out and looked like a big bottle brush.  He started creeping toward the deer, whose white tail shot straight up in what I can only assume was alarm!

As Buzzy got closer to the deer, it raised a front leg.  At this point I was afraid the cat was in danger of being stomped if the deer sensed a threat (although the deer definitely had the advantage in size!), so I stepped out onto the front porch.  The noise sent all three deer into the woods, just far enough to where they thought I couldn’t see them.  I called to Buzzy and he came running as fast as he could and disappeared into the house.  Minutes later the deer reappeared and crossed the property and road into the woods on the other side.

I guess I can now sleep soundly at night, knowing that Buzzy will bravely (if stupidly) keep Blackbird Farm free of wild critters.  He has obviously forgotten the incident with the skunk from a couple years ago…

What the heck was that???

It’s a bumpy road into spring

With the snow rapidly receding in the wake of our record-breaking, near-70 degree temperatures today, the focus shifts to spring.  Photo possibilities become something other than winter white.  Color gradually begins to work its way back into the landscape.

And what is there to do here in New Hampshire in late winter/early spring?  Navigate the frost heaves, for one thing.  It’s a good excuse to slow down and admire the view (and save yourself a front-end alignment).

Or … go fishing.  This photo was taken in the local hardware store – does your hardware store have a view like this??  The bobhouses have been pulled off the lake, though, and ice fishing probably isn’t recommended at the moment.

Buy some fresh maple syrup.  I drove past our local farm yesterday and they were boiling … steam pouring out the roof and the driveway into the place engulfed in mud.  Do you know it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup?  A saphouse in March is a sight to behold.  Inside, the tastes and smells are even better.

Take a class.  The local paper last week offered many to choose from at the high school.  This was a topic of conversation at the office today … some were a bit unusual.  How about “The Widower’s Guide to Survival”? What about us widows … are we being discriminated against?  Or “High End Salads” … Meaning what??  And our favorite, “Spring Babies From Wool Balls.”  I don’t even want to go there.

Mud season, sap season, early spring, late winter … call it what you want.  It’s the season of hope, of a fresh start, of looking forward to the days to come filled with mosquitoes and blackflies.  For now, I’ll stick with the frost heaves.