Other people call it Spring. Here in northern New England, however, this season always goes by one of two other names: mud season or sugaring season.
Sugaring is the process of boiling maple sap – gallons and gallons of it – down to maple syrup or, even further, to maple sugar. One of our favorite annual outings is to visit a local sugarhouse, often tucked into the woods beside a nearby farm, to experience the sights and smells of the boiling sap, and to purchase some of this precious sweet commodity. Last week I was pleased to stop by Sunrise Farm, where my friend Chuck had just concluded a successful boil, and bought four quarts of the good stuff. Just in time, too, because I’d used the last drop of our supply earlier that morning!
Oh, and mud season? More than once I have been stuck in the deep mud along a back road heading to a sugarhouse. The strong spring sunshine and warm daytime temperatures heat the surface of frozen dirt roads, while the underlying soil remains frozen; the melting snow and rainwater cannot drain into the frozen ground, so it turns the surface soil into a a muddy quagmire. Two years ago my car enjoyed this lovely experience, just a mile down our street. Eventually, the deep frost thaws, the soil drains, and the town ‘highway crew’ makes the rounds to grade the dirt roads smooth again.
Ah yes, the two rites of spring in New England.