News from Vermont #308 "Snow Country Snag"

March 6th, 2014

Hello again Maple People,

Our sluggish winter ended on a recent morning with over a foot of snow. It took only one quick look outside to know how hard my day ahead would be. After organizing my priorities over two cups of strong coffee, I donned my "battle" garb. I headed out into the depths toward the "prize", our Kubota tractor in the barn a quarter mile away. The hundred-foot "wallow" out to my trusty Honda reaffirmed the storm's severity but did nothing for my intelligence...I cleaned the car off, started it, and backed it down the drive to a point where it was thoroughly grounded and completely in the way. It would be necessary to abandon the car and continue my wallow that quarter mile.

As I disgustedly slammed the car door, I noticed our ten-year-old black Lab Averill down at the bottom of our long driveway. When she saw me, she rushed to "say "hi" (no hard labor for dogs, just hard play and excitement!). When we met, she did her best to bowl me over but I, still disgusted about the stuck car, shooed her off toward the house. Averill's tracks, though, did make me smile...her uphill loping left six feet of "air" between landings. All dogs are Olympic material!

In direct contrast, my tracks could have been made by a tired old hedgehog with a dragging tail, but I finally made it to County Road. The town crew had been out all night but snow like this gets ahead fast. I waddled on the left side of the road, very defensively, and finally made it to the barn. The Kubota, a modern diesel, started like it was July but during its warm up period, sputtered and groaned almost as if anticipating the work ahead.

Our bucket loader has what is called a "quick detach" feature which enables us to switch between multiple implements like a bucket, forklift, log grapple, and of prime interest today, a snow plow. I crept the tractor up to the snow plow and began the cold, arduous process of attaching it. There's a reason why they call it the quick "detach" and not the quick "attach"! After a painstaking job of alignment, freeing the two stuck lock handles, and plugging in two frozen hydraulic "quick couplers" (another misnomer), I was ready to plow.

Plowing's the fun part. To me, a non-skier, snow is a hindrance designed by angry weather to both curb human progress and stress roof systems. It's best dealt with swiftly by high horsepower machines and fine-tuned plows...but this I say with tongue partly in "cherry-pink cheek"...I know better. Snow creates fun for many folks, good economy, and habitat for wildlife. The latter brings to mind a "plowing story":

Tom beat me to the Kubota!

Years ago I was operating my uncle Bernard's plow truck "cleaning up" from another one-foot snow storm. One of the houses on my route was close to a brook and had a long driveway that required speed enough to shoot the snow to one side from the angled plow. I had made one successful pass but on the second one, all of a sudden something "foreign" shot out in the wake of snow. I stopped and got out to see what it was and there, lying dark against the white snow, was a muskrat, thoroughly ruffled but not hurt. He shook himself off and briefly looked up at me. In the closest thing to a common muskrat to man language, he said "How dare you do this to me...I was here first!" I watched him amble off toward the brook, not certain that he understood my one word, "Sorry".

Yup, snow storms have personalities of their own. To some, they're pure agony, others, pure joy. One thing for sure though, they're part of nature around here, angry or not. And at my age, you'll probably not be seeing me out downhill skiing or snowboarding. No, "been there, done that", but I'll be out there cleanin' up from the next storm. In the words of Edgar Allan Poe..."Never to suffer would never to have been blessed".

Careful Shoveling!


PS: We're all ready to boil sap here when the weather says "go". Like I've said before, sugarmakers are downright neurotic about their "weather"...we need temps in the mid twenties at night and forties in the day with winds in the west or north. Besides that, as I say in my sugarhouse talk, we're not fussy at all! I'm sure we'll get sap weather soon and will let you know when that happens. In the meantime, we've got plenty of the world's best maple syrup right here at and would love to send you some...after all, it's the best way there is to say "Happy Spring"!