This morning I looked out and saw my neighbor tapping Rock Maples in my back yard. He drills the holes and puts the taps in, then hangs buckets. Went out for a short visit and we talked weather (warm for this time of year) sugaring (he is planning to see what he gets over the next few days then boil a bit later) and town meeting stuff (town meeting in Vermont is the first Tuesday in March). Typical New England conversation between neighbors.
“Got some trees tapped and the sap ran all day Sunday.” That is a sugarman’s declaration of a good weekend.
This year the weather has been really wonky and the snow not as deep as some of us would like. Notice the bare spots at the base of the trees. The snow is pretty soft too and not very stable. Dangerous conditions if you use a tractor to put up your buckets or to venture out in the woods. My neighbor Jim, like many others, puts his Sap buckets in the bucket of his tractor and spends as much time getting on and off the tractor as sitting on it. Not likely he is putting his seat belt on every time he drives it… but at least he has a roll bar.
Matt Myers, our ROPS co-ordinator has been throwing all sorts of stats about Roll Over Protection Structures and tractor accidents here at the office. A roll bar and seat belt (being worn) gives you a 99% chance of surviving a rollover without serious injury. Matt is trying to raise enough money to give a rebate to Vermont farmers through the ROPS Retrofit Program
George says the best way to get on and off a tractor safely is by facing the tractor and getting off the same way you get on, holding onto the same handles you used to get on. Busy time sugaring though, it is tempting to just jump off the tractor and get to the next tree. Accidents can happen that way.
There are many back yard sugar makers as well as the larger operations here in Vermont. I am sure, like George they have one eye on work and one eye on the weather outside. There is a great site that George lurks on this time of year. He is apt to take his vacation time just about now. And hopefully he will be bringing some of that syrup into the office for us to sample.