National Geographic : 1967 Aug
"Not at all," Alden answered. "This is a quiet place, and I thought it needed a little window dressing. Besides, a hen's life is pretty dull. So I rotate my flock for a bit of people watching. I bet I have the most contented chickens in the valley." Sugaring: Early Rite of Spring Between late-winter fence mending and spring planting, the Champlain countryman keeps his calendar clear for sugaring (above). By early March maple trees bristle with buck ets. The run depends on warm days and freezing nights; when nights grow warm, both flow and flavor suffer.* The season may be over in two weeks or it may span six. While it lasts, the whole family works overtime. Collecting the sap keeps the men busy in the snowy woods; boiling it down confines the women to the steam-room heat of the sugarhouse. 170 One recent April I stopped at a roadside stand near home to buy my annual supply of new syrup. The price, six dollars a gallon, seemed high, and I said so to the farmwife who answered my horn. Instead of a rebuttal, she extended an invitation. "Run's almost over. Be a pleasure to have you drop by tomorrow for sugarin' off." I accepted with pleasure. Many years had passed since my last visit to one of the weather beaten huts where the traditional Vermont sugaring-off party takes place. It features waxy, snow-cooled syrup (which New Yorkers know as jack wax), fresh doughnuts, hot coffee, and plump sour pickles to offset the sweets. Clouds of steam were already pouring from the vented cupola of the sugarhouse when I arrived next morning. "You're just in time," my hostess greeted *Stephen Greene wrote of "Sugar Weather in the Green Mountains" in the GEOGRAPHIC of April, 1954.