News from Vermont #369 Don’t Have A Cow!

September 23, 2016

Hello again Maple People,
Every day lately we have been jugging up syrup preparing for all the visitors coming soon to see Vermont‘s beautiful fall foliage. In addition to that heavenly aroma of maple syrup heating up and, of course, the ample opportunity to taste-test lots of it, my jugging job has stimulated some bitter-sweet nostalgia. We recently added a new filter press to our syrup canning line. This new press works off a diaphragm pump instead of a gear-driven one and the sound it makes, “chir-chit-chir-chit-chir-chit“, is reminiscent of  the sounds made by pulsating milking machines that I grew up hearing. I heard those pulses seven days a week, 365 days a year…that’s the “bitter” part. I much prefer our new farm venture, serving a clientele that appreciates sweet syrup instead of sweet hay.
Not a bad view to take in!
Another barn sound that I remember comes from way back before the State of Vermont mandated cooled bulk tanks for milk storage. Farmers back then put their milk in ten gallon steel milk cans. The covers fit so tightly into the top of the cans that they had be pounded off to be opened. We kept an eighteen inch-long piece of iron pipe for that purpose which made a “clang, clang, clang” sound all over the farm. Our house was about a quarter mile up the road from our cow barn and sometimes when school was in session, I was lucky enough to escape the morning barn chores. On those occasions, the clanging music made me know that someone else was doing the work…hooray! I always knew, though, that my only reprieve from those cussed chores necessitated a “clang” of a different nature…a school bell.
Of course there was also the animal sounds coming from our farm. Milking time meant “grain” time for the girls and they sure let us know. To this day, I look down the road at our old grey cow barn, uninhabited by milk cows for many years now, expecting to hear that chorus of pleading “Moos………”. And then there were the calves whose high-pitched blats actually hurt my ears. I had a bad attitude about calves. Calves are generally thought of as cute, cuddly things but to me, they were nothing but noisy, sucking annoyances. The job of feeding them often falls to younger family members. I, being the youngest kid, got it by the pen-full and, in addition to their painful blats, they wanted to suck on my shirt sleeves and pant legs. Whether it was my emerging testosterone or just a touch of OCD, I never felt like anyone’s “mommy” and, to this day, still think of them as noisy, sucking annoyances.
Despite the painful memories they conjure up, I rather like the “milking machine” sounds coming from down in our syrup canning room these busy days.  Back in my youth, there were many pieces of the farming we did that bring “bitter” memories to mind, often crowding out the ones I would gladly go back and do again.  But as I have said before, when looking at the past through the lens of nostalgia, somehow the ‘bitter’ gets filter-pressed out leaving just those ‘sweet’ recollections.

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