News from Vermont # 306 Ripe for the Pickin'
Hello again Maple People,
OK, I'll "lay the cards right on the table"....I'm sick of winter! There, I've said it and it may well shatter your notion of this old Vermonter like so much ice...ICE! I've never seen such ice in all my 65 years! In fact I sit here in my wood-heated living room feeling smug to not have a broken bone or bruised muscle...believe me, there are hundreds of folks around here not so lucky.
Another of my nasty little secrets is that I'm not a complete lover of snow...ten inches is great, three feet is abhorrent...but right now I'd settle for snow, any amount, just as long as it leaves the ice a very distant memory. And speaking of memories, one way I combat these winter blues is to draw from my extensive memory bank, memories of summer.
Back in my younger days, we practiced "strawberry diplomacy" here on our farm. Let me explain: Strawberries, being just another fruit, carry a certain above and beyond "grace"...if they were chocolates, they'd be Godiva; if they were mountains, they'd be the Alps; if they were a person, they'd be Mother Theresa. Everybody loves strawberries, especially strawberries grown in a cold, out of the way place like Vermont. For years, we fought the climate and witch grass to grow the world's best strawberries right here at Morse Farm. And, to use another close-to-divine analogy, the first day of strawberry season is like the first boiling of sap...folks smell it in the air and magnetize to it.
The roots of Morse Farm tourism began back in those strawberry days. Dad was just plain sick of milking cows and growing produce on a Vermont hillside farm like ours was, well, "uphill" business. It just made sense to start inviting tourists into our ancestral sugarhouse. Because of the worldwide interest in Vermont maple sugaring, this new part of our business grew fast. Soon whole bus loads of folks were winding their way up the hill from Montpelier to take our tour and see our place. One of those early groups was a travel company from Hawaii called Royal Adventures. Royal Adventure Tours loved our maple experience and before long, we were saying "Aloha" to twenty-five of their groups a year!
One time we were all down picking strawberries in mid-July when a Greyhound bus droned up the road. We knew it was full of Hawaiians ravenous for maple syrup. What we found out, though, after rushing up to greet them and telling them where we had been, was that they were also ravenous for strawberries. "We don't have strawberries back home. Could we possibly go pick some?" they asked. Dad and I stepped aside for a pow-wow.
"I d'know...fifty strangers in the strawberry patch?" I whispered, thinking "strawberry jam right on the vine". We also gave quick "lip service" to the risk of accidents but being gracious Vermonters, quickly said "hang with th'insurance" and loaded the pickup truck with Hawaiians for multiple trips to the strawberry field.
Fast forward to foliage season 2013. It was mid-afternoon and I had just welcomed another bus full of tourists into that same old sugarhouse. My father, the main thrust for our tourism business, had gone on the great sugarhouse in the sky way back in 1999. I, current "old man" at the Morse Farm, stood in to take his place. Although exhausted, I completed this tour, the twelfth of the day so far. As the group left, a man approached me. He introduced himself as Melvin Yee from Hawaii. As I shook his hand, I felt an eeriness, almost as though my father was there with me..."I was here back in 1982." he said excitedly. He went on to describe a father and son, a yellow pickup truck full of Hawaiians, and strawberries, rows and rows of luscious strawberries. Mr. Yee said for this tour, his company promised a visit to a Vermont maple farm but he did not "put two and two together" until he got off the bus..."I could almost smell strawberries in the air. I suddenly knew it was the same place I had visited so long ago.". Memories, like strawberries, are ripe for the pickin' here at Morse Farm.
Back to the present...just while I've been writing, the snow has started. We're not getting much but even the thinnest layer of snow gives "traction" to that ice. My mid-winter memory jaunt to July has also given me a bit of "traction" toward sanity. Nostalgia is great that way, kind of like making something out of nothing. And a very sweet nothing it is, indeed, when you can "almost smell" the strawberries in January!
ps: We're finally getting our first substantial snow storm of the year (plenty to make our skiers happy and not enough to make us have to wallow in the sugar woods (which makes me happy!). Tommy and I are heading out into the sugar woods this afternoon to work toward sugar season 2014. We'll be tapping our trees soon in anticipation of the "freezing nights and thawing days" of sugar season. Until then, though, we've got plenty of our world-class Morse Farm Maple Syrup in all four grades at www.morsefarm.com for you to buy. Remember...maple syrup is pure and right from a tree. It's full of trace minerals and antioxidants. It's good for you! My next "News from Vermont" will be on the subject of JUNK you buy in the supermarkets that bears the name "maple" but has no maple in it...watch out! Trust only the words "pure" maple and buy it only from folks you can trust, like us. Check out lots of "pure" maple products at www.morsefarm.com and find out, too, that we've lowered our shipping charges!
pss: One more thing...at www.morsefarm.com/gifts, you'll find our new "sweetheart" bag of maple kettle corn and at www.morsefarm.com/products, you'll find our gift box of pure maple heart candies. It's the perfect time to order something for your sweatheart at www.morsefarm.com.