Friday, April 8, 2011

Snow, Mud & Maple Syrup

When spring arrives in New England the maple sugar houses are a beehive of activity, with the collecting and cooking of maple sap. This year the sap started rising in the maple trees in early February.

Our early spring cycle of warm days and cold nights has created ideal conditions for the maple syrup harvest.  

There was plenty of warm sunshine, melting snow and mud when we headed up to visit sugar houses in the small town of Newfield, Maine.

On our drive north through Shapleigh, Maine we spotted a small sugar house by the side of the road.  The sap lines from the maple trees up on the hill behind it were delivering sap directly into the cooker.

The sap was boiling away, creating thick clouds of sweet, warm fragrant steam....

High up on a beam near the roof vent sat a line of old sap buckets.

The fire in the cast iron fire box under the sap cooker was kept stoked.  Cords of neatly stacked wood sat nearby. 

A line of syrup containers sat on a sill above a window.

There was little time to set up an easel to paint on this fast moving tour. This was a sketching trip ! We were covering a lot of territory in an afternoon.  

The snow melted in patches on the south side of Bond Mountain. 
6x9 watercolor sketchbook

At Sugar Hill in Newfield they started the sap cooking season with 16 cords of wood. They were running out of wood with only a few cords left in the storage space next to the cooker.

The snow still sat in big drifts on the north side of the hill while there was bare ground and mud on the south side.  
6x8 watercolor sketchbook

Some farmers used the traditional buckets and traveled through the woods collecting the sap with a tractor and wagon.

I  sketched as fast as I could at each location.  There were throngs of people visiting every sugar shack.  

Hilltop Boilers only used buckets to collect sap.  
6x8 watercolor sketchbook

It was great to see the metal pails being used. I remember these from  my childhood when I saw them each spring all over the woods in western Massachusetts. 

Sap buckets. 
4x8 watercolor  sketchbook

Hilltop Boilers had a sharp new sugar house.

Sugar Hill 
6x8 watercolor sketchbook

This maple sugaring tour was a first for me. I'd never seen so many different sugar houses in one day.  It's been a cold spring here in Maine so it is nice to see that chilly weather has created this bountiful maple syrup harvest. These farmers are happy with this great syrup season!


  1. Thank you Theresa ! It was a great day for sure.

  2. Very enjoyable! It is so much fun to see what you sketch compared to what is photographed. Nice story.

  3. Thank you Mary! Yes, sketching is very liberating and choosing what to sketch depends on how much time I have and what it feels like...