News from Vermont #310 A Vote for Sugarin'
Hello again Maple People,
Guess I'm a little like a critter that's been penned up all winter just waitin' for the grass to green up. I'm nervous but excited about sugarin'. And when I'm nervous, I get ornery, and when I get ornery I start thinking about politics. Politics "surface" here in Vermont every first Tuesday in March with Town Meeting Day. Although I consider myself a good citizen, I most always "pass" on Town Meeting. No doubt some will call me irreverent but I get kind of nervous sitting in a meeting on a day when I'm supposed to be gettin' ready to sugar. I much prefer to study up on the issues and then speak my mind in the voting booth.
The Town Meeting tradition started back when it really made sense, back when the entire populace could fit in the same room, government was simple, and, frankly, average folks talked less and thought more...like when my great, great, great, great grandfather, James Morse settled in Cabot in the late 1700s.
I don't know a lot about Grandpa James Morse but do know, since he represented Cabot as Justice of the Peace and legislator, that he was civic minded. In fact, I'm quite sure that James Morse would have been a dedicated attendee of every Cabot Town Meeting until he died in 1812. Jennie S. Donaldson in "First Two Centuries of Cabot" describes the organization of Cabot's first Town Meeting:
"Other settlers soon followed and by 1787 four settlers requested that a meeting be called to organize the town government. The original call, dated February 5, 1788 was issued by Walter Brock, Justice of Peace, for the meeting to be held in Thomas Lyford's house. This document is in the Cabot Public Library. There were probably no more than 10 or 11 voters present but officers were elected. It was voted to build a school house but times were hard and the school house was not built until 1792 at a cost of $35 in wheat and $5 in cash, nails or glass."
In comparison, our recent East Montpelier Town Meeting drew only 154 voters to decide on a school budget of slightly over four million dollars. I've never been very good with numbers but it seems to me there is a slight problem with the 1787 to 2014 ratio in both votes and dollars. Since we now have 1995 voters in town, shouldn't there have been a few more folks making this important decision? And, I might add, since many folks can't even get out of work for Town Meeting, they're being denied their right to participate fully.
OK, enough of that...I've pledged in the past to minimize politics from my writing so, in heading back to the subject of sugarin', a story comes to mind. (and if you want to treat it as an analogy to the first part of this missive, it's OK with me)....we sugarmakers commonly compare notes about the sweetness of our sap. One time my father came up short in a sweetness contest with a neighbor. Harry Morse had gone out into his sugarbush with a sap hydrometer and, very scientifically, sampled sap from buckets all over the woods. He found the sap to be "right on the money" at 2% sugar content. His neighbor, however, boasted a whopping 3.9% and proved it by holding the hydrometer cup right up to dad's eyes. My father went away "licking his wounds" until a few days later, another neighbor told him the truth...it seems "sweet tree" guy had only sampled his two huge front yard maples, which commonly bear sap twice as sweet, and ignored all his others back in the sugarbush. I think dad was the real winner of that one! Much like a poorly attended Town Meeting, a sampling of a few when there are many often gives unfair results.
We're "glued" to the weather reports right now and thinking positively about some predicted temperatures in the mid forties. That should help the sap start running for an April sugar season this year. In years past, we've had sugaring seasons that waited until April to start and we sure deserve a great one this year. Nature's never predictable, however. While we know that Nature will provide us with a sugaring season at some point, its "ratio" is yet to be determined. In fact, knowing what I do at age 66, I'll add "Town Meeting and sugar weather" to that old saying, "all's fair in love and war".
PS: We're boiling for the first time today! Yup, it's finally happening and we can send you fresh syrup right off the evaporator. You just have to go to www.morsefarm.com and place your order (for a few days, we'll have only Fancy grade or grade A Medium Amber). Thanks so much for your support and remember, this is the best syrup in the world!