In this part of the world, March madness does not refer to basketball. March madness is what happens when the woods are filled with people staggering around on snowshoes, trying to get all the sugar maples tapped before the sap runs. The madness part comes in when, just about the time you’re feeling like you might be nearly ready, a big whopping March snowstorm comes along and buries all your hard work – miles of plastic tubing snaking over acres of forested and steep terrain – under 3 feet of new snow. That’s on top of the 3 or 4 feet of old snow. And then it pours rain for a day. And then it snows some more.
Three guys shoveling for three days later, that’s where we are now. That’s why my husband, Howie, always says that people who make maple syrup might appear to be a little mad this time of year.
This morning we awoke to more softly falling snow, the kind that coats every limb and twig with the temperature hovering just below freezing. It will warm up by a few degrees in the next few hours, and the sap will begin to run. Added to the sap that we collected yesterday in this first real run of the season, we have enough to boil. That is, we have enough sap to fill our huge pans, enough to light the first fire of the season under them and begin the yearly ritual of evaporation, transforming the watery sustenance of the stately sugar maple into the golden elixir of spring.
Get out the pickles! Sugaring time is here!
Very soon we’ll be bringing our first syrup of 2011 to the Greenmarket at Union Square, just as we’ve done every spring for the last 27 years. We hope to see you there. And if you’re in our little village of West Glover, stop by the newly refurbished Lake Parker Country Store and pick up a jug of our delicious 2011 “essence of spring.”