We may have started the day in the double digits, but the wind was blowing cold when our first school group arrived for the 2011 sugaring season.
Most of this group was kids from France. Teaching maple sugaring to teens who don't have a lot of English can be a challenge, even with interpreters on hand. But our wonderful crew of volunteers sallied forth undeterred, giving these kids the benefits of their knowledge about this wholly American subject.
Trying on the yoke quickly became a hit, and many of the kids wanted to give it a try...even if they didn't completely understand what it was all about.
Although it was balmy and mild when we tapped the trees, every day since it has been quite cold. So cold, in fact, that not only was the water in the buckets frozen, but so was the sap. We scraped up some of the ice for the kids to taste - sort of like a sweet slushy eaten with fingers.
The bags were bulging with the weight of ice. Fortunately, the bags are made from some pretty tough plastic, so they can take the stress.
In all the years I've done sugaring, this is the first time I've ever seen anyone plug the tapping holes after the season ends. They use short lengths of wooden dowels, just long enough to fill the hole. The tree then grows around them and seals them in. Interesting.
We were all quite glad to reach the sugar shack itself. Although the sun is shining, the wind and air were bitingly cold.
And here is why the shack was the place to be: they'd chopped wood and built a fire for the evaporator.
We'd only actually collected about eight gallons of sap by now, so there wasn't a whole lot in the evaporator. Here John demonstrates one of the ways the sap is tested for "doneness."
Everyone got a squirt of syrup (made last year) to taste. Most of these kids have never had the real thing - maple sugar and syrup are not products of France.
Here are a couple views at the sugar shack:
Sugar-steamed spider webs
After the group left, lunch time found us once more ensconced at The Window, watching a fox squirrel this time around.
Making sure the coast is clear.
Never let your guard down!
And always check the window in case you can beg some more food.