Early Spring, Late Winter
Sugaring season began and ended two weeks earlier than last year. By Easter Sunday (April 4th), we’d already hit 80 degrees and sap was spoiling in the buckets hanging on the trees. Buds fattened. Leaves emerged. Then, temperatures fell along with more snow. Despite the swings of weather, our per-tap production was up 5% over the previous banner year. In the photo above, Jackson and I enjoy the early April sunshine at the Rose family Easter gathering.
Through the fits and starts of weather I worked to finish up the remaining timbers for the equipment shed. Although the greenhouse served me well as a winter workshop, it’s been a joy to set up outside since the arrival of spring.
When it came time to cut the 20-foot sections of the top plates, my daily dosage of “vitamin I” (Ibuprofen) went up. Marion and I wrestled the timbers from the stacks to where I cut the scarf joints, mortises, and rafter seats. Then, it was back to the pile with much back strain and requisite grunts and groans. The lifting took its toll, prompting me to search for a pallet fork attachment and slings that will allow the tractor to bear the load. Come raising time those pallet forks will have become indispensable.
To cut the rafter seats, I made a jig for the chain mortiser, allowing me to make the cuts at the required 26.6 degree angle (for a 6:12 pitch roof). Originally I’d thought I’d be making the cuts entirely by chisel. With jig and mortiser, however, I’m guessing that I saved days of effort.
On April 25th I drove to Beverly, Massachusetts for a memorial service in honor of a woman whose influence during my teen years remains indelibly etched on my being today. Bernice Kyte, mother of my childhood best friend Ralph and his loveable younger sister Kathy, was eulogized with fondness after a remarkable life that touched so many. Prior to reuniting at his mom’s service, Ralph and I had not crossed paths for 29 years and it’s been 24 years since I’ve seen Kathy. While we only had a few short hours together before I drove back north, it only took a few minutes of time together for me to realize why Ralph and I had been so close years ago.
A Mother’s Day snow storm weighed heavily on the trillium and other spring growth in the meadows. We received six inches of snow on the meadows, but parts of the state saw up to two feet of the white stuff. Over the past month and a half, spring has come and gone multiple times. The early season warming had a profound impact on many maple sugaring operations. Then, during early to mid-May, late season snows and continued frost began killing off growth that had emerged in the earlier record warmth. We’ve heard reports that the state’s apple crop may be seriously affected as a result. It remains to be seen how our orchard will fare.
In preparation for summer crops we’ve expanded the size of the garden three-fold, including a large section on the slope that will be devoted to corn. The image above does nothing to illustrate how difficult it is to break sod with a tiller. By the time I’d finished fighting the machine for hours I came to appreciate (and yearn for) an age old implement, one which we do not own – a plow.
After much cursing of the rented tiller, followed by hours with a steel rake, I was ready to put in the first of the corn. I’ll plant the remainder come Memorial Day. Meanwhile, my aching back needs a bit of a rest.