A Lot of M Words

For the men in my family, March is all about March Madness and the NCAA basketball tournament. Tonight, for example, the Sheehan men will stay up late to watch the UConn Huskies play the Washington Huskies. Tip off is ten pm. I will not be attending. This is not to be confused with being out of the loop. During the UConn-Duke final game for the championship in 1999, there was so much screaming downstairs that I knew the score, moment to moment, from upstairs in my bedroom. Also knew the moment when UConn won, Ben tackled Jim, and both of them fell over the back of the couch. Tonight may have a bit of that same flavor.

For me, March is all about Maple sugaring and mud. I mention mud because our dirt road has been mud all month. Frankly, it has been mud all winter, what with all our freak thaws. As the town manager noted at town meeting, we are on our fifth mud season this year.

Yes, town meeting. For the town I live in, March is all about town meeting. Each town in New Hampshire still holds annual town meetings. In our town of Plainfield, a couple hundred of the registered voters come to town meeting each year to hash out their differences, some years with more civility than other years. It’s a good time to visit with a lot of people I don’t otherwise see and do some serious knitting. Due to a bit of contentiousness at the first part of the town meeting in which the school budget was discussed, that part of the meeting was adjourned without resolving some budget disagreements, so an extra third day of town meeting was called for tomorrow. I think it is technically all the same meeting. It sure feels like more than one meeting though.

At last week’s second part of the town meeting, this one about town expense budget items such as tires for the road grader, the meeting broke for lunch so that the eighth grade could sell us all some food to pay for their eighth grade graduation trip to Montreal. This was an opportunity for Jim to buy girl scout cookies and other snacks. It’s a noble sacrifice on his part, all done in the name of supporting his sixth grade students past, present, and future.

Our town meeting happens in the Plainfield School gym. During the lunch break, people who aren’t eating, stand around and unkink from hours in metal folding chairs. I found a cluster of sugarers stretching their legs right outside the seventh and eighth grade locker rooms. Of course, they were talking about their sugaring seasons. As far as I know, I am the only woman sugaring in town. I am not quite sure why it is traditional to have men sugar, not women. I slid silently into the group and listened as people weighed in with their news.

One sugarer with 800 taps in had made 4 gallons of dark syrup. One person with 70 gallons had made 5 quarts. The bigger operation with its 6,000 taps had made 250 gallons, a ration of 2.5 gallons for every 60 taps. Everyone was worried it was going to be another year like last year, when we didn’t really have much of a season. Everyone had started out with the same darker grade syrup that I had.

I wish I knew how to tell them to hug their trees. I really cannot explain my almost 4 gallons with 40 taps any other way, but I have never quite found the nerve to serve that tip up.

One elderly sugarer, who is not syruping this season, told me how the initial Q on his bucket lids had been painted by his grandfather. I have one of these bucket lids with the big Q for Quimby on them. Don’t know how it ended up with my equipment. I offered it back to him, but he seemed quite tickled to think it was in action. I like seeing this Q each time I check my buckets too, because I sugared with the Quimbys several years and learned a lot from them.

Since last Saturday, the sap has run only a tiny bit. We are a month into the season and its only run a couple of times. Yesterday it ran some and two weeks ago it ran off and on for two or three days. Yesterday was not a big run. William and I collected a modest 40 gallons. I am boiling that down today. Temperatures went below freezing last night and went above freezing today. This should bring on a run. Boiling today means I won’t get backlogged with more sap than my holding tank can handle if it runs well today. Probably wishful thinking this season.

Most of the seeds I started last Friday have germinated. I moved these seed flats into the greenhouse from where I germinated the seeds in the kitchen. Its warmer in the kitchen and everything germinates faster when its warmer. Crocuses have joined the snowdrops out in the garden. A skunk has taken to visiting under the bird feeder each day for a sunset snack. I really should stock up on tomato juice since Riley is bound to have a moment with this fearless visitor one of these evenings. He is only just stopped smelling of skunk from last summer’s moments.

Well, just reporting in on Friday. At least this weeks the dogs are pleased that we are outside boiling. They are getting their quote of freedom and fresh air today. Me too for that matter.

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