News from Vermont #312 "Sugarhouse Talk"

May 1st, 2014

Hello again Maple People,

One of the best parts of sugarin' is meeting all the different people who come into our sugarhouse. And just like the sweeter'n life maple process itself, they're all really nice folks, many with interesting stories to tell. When I hear something extra interesting, I'll at least make a mental note. Sometimes I'll even write things down on a ragged piece of cardboard with the "Sharpie" that I use to keep syrup records on the wall. One of those cardboard scraps recently reminded me of a visit from a rancher from Arizona. He spoke in a "foreign" language, one only understood by those engaged in land husbandry..."We work from cain't see t'cain't see and on Sundays, we weld"...translation: a farmer's work goes on from dawn to dusk every day and on the seventh day, repairs must be made to begin all over again! I've always stuck to that seven-day-a-week routine here at Morse Farm and am quite certain that God understands my need to "weld" on Sundays!

On the same piece of cardboard, I had written down the words "giant" and "Mozambique" to remind myself of a couple who recently stopped by. As they approached, I knew that they were from away and would need my "A" talk, a complete explanation of the maple process. The most striking thing about that couple was the man's size. He stood about seven feet tall and was all muscle. His mate, in contrast, was a small woman who spoke in what I thought was a thick English accent: "Pahdon me but would you mind explyning the pro-cess?" she asked. I assured her that I would not mind and began my "A" talk.

The man's face came alive with interest as I described our maples. I said that our rock maples, as well as being the same trees we make syrup from, were among the finest hardwoods in the world for furniture making. My suggestion that they might even have a coffee table back in England made from rock maple drew a shaking head from the giant on two counts. "Now, now...we're not from England but southern Awhfrica...Mozambique to be exawhkt". He mentioned that he was a forester by trade and that there would certainly be no rock maple coffee tables anywhere in Mozambique."Our panga panga tryees would mike yer myples look like softwoods" he said, and went on to describe the hardwood density and furniture-making attributes of the panga panga with an almost nationalistic reverence...I knew I'd best back off about the maple's value for anything but syrup making.

The couple listened to my explanation of the maple process with rapt interest and, at the end, I asked them about things "Mozambique", including the government. The giant exploded "Why they're th'most ineffective bunch of thieving rogues that you can immahgine...they're nothing but scoundrels the whole lot!". I wasted no time in assuring him that there were, indeed, similarities between our two countries!

I quickly recognized another of my visitors as David King, friend, neighbor, and certainly no neophyte to the maple process. He walked in through the steam and after shaking hands, we began to "catch up". I was particularly interested when he told me about his retirement. "That's not fair" I said, indicating that there was no chance of this old man slowing down even though I would like to. When he asked me why, I sited my inability to let go."I've been here forever and, although my son Tommy has worked here for ten years, I keep doing the things that I should be turning over to him." David told me a story about having a bad shoulder one time and being tricked by a son-in-law into going in to read the paper instead of lifting heavy bags of cement. "All of a sudden I 'got it'" he said, "that my son-in-law needed the assurance that I trusted him and knew he could do the job". David, ever the philosopher, puntuated his remarks with the words "sometimes you do by not doing".

We parted that day with another hand shake and small seed planted in my soul...maybe I could let Tommy do more of the work and be the old man around here. I'd love to learn to fish and play golf, but I'd still spend some limited sugarhouse time doing things like giving my "A" talk and learning about the virtues of panga panga trees. Heck, I'd even attend church on Sundays and let the young folks do the welding.