News from Vermont #232 -- Awkward Ag
Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks
Hello again Maple People,
I got an email the other day from my cousin Wayne that kind of "struck home" in light of the work I've been doing lately. The gist of his message was about "the automation of farming" and the reason it struck home was because we've been out in the sugar woods tapping trees and repairing tubing to get ready for our upcoming sugar season, our version of farming this time of year. As I read his message, these 63-year-old bones of mine were "talkin' to me" in good shape because of the week I'd put in and it had even been brutal for the younger guys I work with...whew...sometimes seems like it's even harder than the old days of buckets and oxen and "wintahs th'way they used t' be"!
Here's Wayne's message:
"I have wondered if you detected that Cousin Robert was a prophet? In early June of 1940 or 41, I was walking with Robert as he drove the horses using a spike tooth harrow to get the weeds just as the corn was emerging, a practice Uncle John employed. Robert prophesied that the day would come when a farmer could set in his living room and direct the field work. It amazes me that I have lived to see that come to pass that a farmer can, by remote control, send the tractor out for planting, tilling or harvesting and control that equipment within 1 or 2 inches of accuracy!"
Amazing I say! And I certainly believe cousins Wayne and Robert; they're both savvy of things agriculture and no doubt glad as hell they aren't still out in that corn field with those horses! I'm just a bit puzzled about why more of this armchair agriculture hasn't seeped into the world of maple sugar making? It sure would be nice to sit in my living room, manipulate a keyboard, and make the maple magic happen but I somehow know that will never be the case. Here's my theory: agriculture has two major ingredients, machinery and nature. Machinery is the easy part; if technology can put a man on the moon and develop computers that are smarter than people, it's a "no-brainer" to make a remote control tractor. The complications arise, however, when "nature" is added...nature, the "tough nut to crack", always calls the shots, and always will!
Farming "out west" (and for a Vermonter, "out west" starts around Syracuse, New York) involves square, flat, pliable fields. I assume those are the places Cousin Wayne was talking about and expect those fields'll "tame up" pretty good (at least until the first tornado comes along). Here in Vermont, on the other hand, we're dealing with wild trees that grow on very inhospitable countryside and require frigid winters as part of their life cycles. A frigid winter's footprint, three feet of snow, is usually still right there necessitating snowshoes, the most Neanderthal of all footwear, when we begin tapping our trees.
Some folks ask "do you have to drill a new hole every year?" and our answer is "yes" with the precision of a surgeon. "Can't you use a snowmobile to make getting around easier?" they persist..."heavens no" we say..."It'd be like that surgeon makin' his incision with a dull ax instead of a scalpel!" We've got to get right up to those maples and find the perfect place to tap all while working around the "spiderweb" of tubing that stays in the woods year round.
Lest I've upset farmers "out west" by suggesting that their job is easy and ours is hard, I don't mean to. I'm aware that farming is never easy but that there are certainly easier places to farm than here in Vermont. Our trees are now all tapped and we're waiting for the freezing and thawing weather that will finally release the only ingredient for our crop of liquid gold. Until that happens, I'll include a couple quotes that sooth my wary bones:
"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." Ralph Waldo Emerson
And my very favorite one of all is by e.e. cummings: "The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful"...sounds like sugarin' in Vermont to me!
Whew...we've got some sap finally and will be boiling by the end of the weekend! You can get some by going to www.morsefarm.com. I won't write any more about why you should buy some syrup from us 'cause I'm tired!
Thanks for your support!