Saturday, April 30, 2011

Adventures in Photography: Maple Sugaring in Central Vermont

Seeing the popularity of my story "Adventures in Photography: Sailing Aboard the Margaret Todd" , I have decided to start posting all of my Adventures in Photography series here on my blog.

This article is the first in a monthly series that has appeared in the Freebird Times newspaper. With a circulation of 60,000 copies per issue, the Freebird Times can be found throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. If you live outside of Southeastern, MA , check back here each month to see the latest article.
The intent of this series will be to highlight photo opportunities throughout New England, while offering tips on how to improve your photography.

Adventures in Photography: Maple Sugaring in Central Vermont

Entering Rick Wright’s sugar shack is akin to stepping back in time. The heat from the wood fired boiler warms all visitors, while clouds of steam from the boiling sap rise toward the open roof. The sweet aroma of maple syrup wafts into your nose and saturates the senses. With a smile and a nod, the Yankee farmer welcomes you within.

In no time at all, Rick and his kin manage to make their guests feel as if they are part of the family. Conversations abound around the wood fire, ranging in topics from the farmer’s almanac to milk prices and especially the Red Sox. Nothing could be finer than spending a day with such genuine folk.

Producing maple syrup is a family affair. The Wrights have been producing syrup for five generations. More than seventy years! Jake Wright, Rick’s father, was a young boy when his dad built the shack in 1938. Now in his eighties, Jake still helps by gathering the syrup with his daughter in law Beverly and his two grandsons Andrew and Joel.

Gathering the sap is an arduous process. It begins in late February when the Wrights don snowshoes to place 900 taps into 700 maple trees. Traveling through snow several feet deep, they hook up miles of plastic tubing that carries the sap downhill towards the sugar shack.

Unfortunately, not all of the trees can be hooked up to the lines. Collecting the sap from these outlying trees is a team effort. The entire family, including Jake, walks from tree to tree draining sap buckets into five gallon pails.

Once the sap is gathered, it must be boiled. This takes hours of time and cords of wood. After the first few gallons of syrup are produced, the sugar house conversation is enlivened with a Green Mountain treat. Fresh doughnuts dipped in hot maple syrup. Nothing tastes better on a chilly winter afternoon.

The Wrights sell most of their syrup to nearby restaurants. Some of it however can be bought at Jake’s home off of Route 12 in Bethel, Vt. The next time you are in the area, stop by, say hello, and pick up a quart. It will be the sweetest deal you make all year.

This month’s photo tip: Simplify. Try to isolate your subject as closely as possible. Many people include too much in their images. This clutters the photo and can confuse the viewer. This photo of a drop of sap coming from a sugar maple tree boils the story down to the basic elements. It communicates directly to the viewer that the image is about sap coming from a maple tree. Keeping just a small amount of bark in the image is enough to suggest the importance of the tree, while eliminating the need to include the entire tree.

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