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Sugaring Off

by Hattie Howard

Round after round in rugged tramp,
But wholesome discipline,
By sturdy hands about the camp
The sap was gathered in;
When one perspiring, very red,
And sitting on a trough,
"To close the season," so he said,
Proposed to "sugar off."

Beyond the farm-house still and white,
Beyond the poplar bars,
A lignous pile emitted light
That paled the brighest stars;
Where caldrons hung, like those of which
The Bard of Avon told,
With ebullition contents rich
Above the flame of gold.

A score or more of beaux and belles
On toothsomeness intent,
Like buzzing bees in flower-dells
Inhaled the maple scent;
Who danced around in impish glee
Like witches in Macbeth,
And stirred the sweet consistency,
And laughed till out of breath.

In fidget spells, by trial sips
Of liquid boiling hot,
How many burned their saucy lips;
And pouted at the thought
Of strips of plaster stretched across
Each rosy orifice,
Or sighed in secret o'er the loss
Of some prospective kiss.

Anon, the mass like melted wax
Electrified their hopes,
Who followed out diversion's tracks
By making candy ropes;
That by mysterous lasso twirls—
How, record never tells—
Glued ribbon-bows and spiral curls
To overcoat lapels.

How many lads in languid pose
Leaned later 'gainst the trees,
The sticky syrup on their clothes,
The 'lasses on their knees—
That is, the sugar!—never yet
Hath language run so fast—
But one can never quite forget
What happened decades past.

Such fun beyond the curfew hour
A Puritan might rue,
Or like an unbelieving Giaour
Deny the statement true;
But so it was—till Pater (and
A lantern) caused surprise,
Who quite broke up the festive band
And captured their supplies.

O, with a wild remembrance-thrill
My heart in rapture beats!
The egg-shell cups again I fill
With granulated sweets,
And mold in scalloped patty-pans
Delicious maple cakes
As yellow as the golden sands,
But pure as snowy flakes.

I've been, as by the drift of chance,
A wanderer for years
From those delightful, happy haunts
That memory endears;
But never life hath been so bright
As when, upon a trough
With Peter Stump, one blessed night
I helped to "sugar off."

* * * * *

And for his sake, where'er he is,
This rustic ode I pen
To stir his risibilities;
The jolliest of men,
Though Prelate of the Holy See;
Who dreams sometimes I know
Of sweetness, sap, and sorcery—
O, years and years ago!

Maple sugar in its perfection is rarely seen, perhaps never seen, in the market. When made in large quantities and indifferently, it is dark and coarse; but when made in small quantities—that is, quickly from the first run of sap and properly treated—it has a wild delicacy of flavor that no other sweet can match. What you smell in freshly cut maple wood, or taste in the blossom of the tree, is in it. It is then, indeed, the distilled essence of the tree. Made into syrup, it is white and clear as clover honey; and crystallized into sugar, it is pure as the wax. The way to attain this result is to evaporate the sap under cover in an enameled kettle; when reduced about twelve times, allow it to settle half a day or more; then clarify with milk or the white of an egg. The product is virgin syrup, or sugar worthy the table of the gods.

– John Burroughs

Folk Ways

The last half of March is traditionally the time of year when weather conditions become just right for "sugaring." Tapping maple trees for sugar requires a temperature range that fluctuates between freezing temperatures at night and above freezing temperatures during the day, but avoiding extremes. This delicately balanced temperature fluctuation creates the free flow of sap required for sugar tapping.

Pennsylvania Dutch barn star

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