|Posted by dawngriffis on March 11, 2018 at 1:10 PM|
Hello everyone, well tonight 10th March, clocks spring forward to daylight savings time in the US, UK has to wait a bit longer to do it. This is usually a sign spring is close, I say this with tongue in cheek, as I look out the window as I see still mostly the white stuff everywhere, the last was dumped on us earlier in the week. We got about 14-16 inches, some parts of Vermont got 40 inches. UK last week had another huge snow storm, it covered all their spring flowers that were out, including the daffodils; our snowdrops had just barely broken through the ground. I say to Mother Nature, enough is enough, on both sides of the pond; Mother Nature owes all of us big time this summer.
This month from UK I am posting some pieces I have been saving up for you for almost a year, of course there are poems from Beverley Coleman, and a couple from 2 other readers, they fit with the time of year, and connect together. For the US input, I am covering what this time of year is always happening in Vermont, namely ‘Sugaring Season’.
I don’t usually do this but I’m going to tell you my plans for next month, because I could use your input. I plan to cover markets; from UK it will be about the very old, famous and popular ‘Covered Market’ in the center of Oxford, this one is several hundred years old; I think you’ll find it interesting. In the US we don’t have anything that old, so I’m covering the seasonal Farmers Markets, and Farm stands in Vermont, because they will soon be opening up. I would really love to add more information about other markets across the US; you may have a favorite one you go to a lot that others would like to hear about. If you do and would email me the info plus a couple of pictures to go with it, I’ll add them to the US part of the blog. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hoping spring is really close for you, and to my readers in the southern hemisphere, who will soon be in their winter season, I hope Mother Nature is kinder to you than she was to us.
Now for UK’s contribution:-
From Beverley Coleman
The weeks turn into months
As the season trundles on
Winters almost over
I wish that it was gone.
Too many bugs are hanging round
And not the insect kind
The coughing and the sneezing
Enough to blow your mind.
It’s going to get much colder
The weather men do say
Colder by the minute
Colder by the day.
We could have snow
We could have rain
We could have sun
We wait in vain.
Just wrap up warm as always
Please don’t leave off your vest
Even the very hardy
This’ll put you to the test.
The daffodils are showing now
Always good to see
The birds are ever hungry
Almost saying “Please feed me.”
The shells on my Magnolia buds
Are falling to the floor
I hope the cold won’t spoil them
But I can’t do any more.
It’s Nature and it takes its course
There’s nothing we can do
So let’s just grin and bare it
And just enjoy the view.
So have a lovely weekend
Wherever you may be
I’ll be warm and cosy
Watching football on tv.
Daffodils in Bev's garden before the snow buried them but they were fine.
Daffs in Aynho by Gill Batten, I think Gill took the next one to.
The view over the wall looks over the Cherwell Valley the field on the other side of the wall is called Wensden
King Fisher taken by Anthony Morris in Farmoor near Oxford.
An English red squirrel from This England magazine
Here is one I have been saving, by Edna Sparks, from Banbury.
"A dainty snowdrop creeps to life again,
In cold, grey earth - defying winter rain.
She bows her tiny head as if in prayer
Who - a week ago - knew she was there?
But, small and cheerful,
Brightening the day,
. Her presence whispers.
"Spring's not far away!
Snowdrops taken by Merrilyn Lucas 2016
The next two poems I have saved for close to a year, they are very different from what I usually post, first by Bev, the other by Brenda Kirkham another Banbury native.
Banbury Back streets
By Beverley Coleman
The oldie worldly backstreets
Of our quaint old market town
We wonder in this day and age
Why people let it down.
The quietness is there to see
Some businesses have gone
It's time for us to realise
It has gone on much too long.
We have too many empty shops
We have graffiti too
There's litter dropped just everywhere
What is there left to do.
We could all pull together
We could all do our bit
Take litter home ...clean up our town
Not on the pavements sit.
Make Banbury great again we say
Let's win this big debate
Bring life into our Market Town
Before it is too late.
Chiurch Walk Banbury by Ray Cliff.
Here is Brenda Kirkham’s
by Brenda Kirkham
Remember Banbury, that old market town
Where it was a pleasure to walk up and down,
To go to the pictures and walk in the park,
To window-shop safely, when evenings were dark.
In Parsons Street, High Street and Market Place too,
Were shops that sold everything isn't that true?
Pilsworths and Brummitts for kid's toys and books,
Knitting pins, wool, silks press studs and hooks.
Bernard Smiths, Kingerlees and Mansfield’s for gifts,
There was always the Co-op - "Let's go in the lift"
Dossetts and Maypole and Butlers as well,
That wonderful, freshly ground, rich coffee smell.
Allsops and Nathans and Timothy Whites,
Walking round town held so many delights.
The Market - the one place where we HAD to call,
To buy Banbury rock from Leach's sweet stall.
Remember the Appletree for cream cakes and chats,
Or giggling in Judges, while trying on hats?
Miss Thurston sold wool for hand knitted socks
John Bonham fixed watches and winding up clocks.
Stevens, the stationers was up by the Cross.
Chapman’s, Wyncolls and Lays now we've lost.
We can meet our friends in Woolworths no more,
Shopping's no longer a joy but a chore.
The yeast shop, with baking utensils galore,
The pork butchers shop with saw-dusted floor.
All these and more are so clear in my mind,
Am I viewing through glasses, the rose tinted kind?
The market day buses were crowded with folk,
Who were friendly and helpful if a carrier bag broke,
Men with their sons, who always wore caps,
And chattering women with babes on their laps.
Now we drive in our cars to the big superstores,
Buy pre-packs in kilos, no pounds anymore.
Progress is making all towns look the same,
Each one distinguishable by its own name.
I know things weren't perfect; sometimes there were fights
Outside the pubs on Saturday nights.
But old Banbury had charm; the shops their own smell,
What next will we lose; - the Cross? Who can tell.
But the people are still great. This is what happened in Banbury during the last storm, when the town couldn’t get to clear the snow around the Horton Hospital and parking lots; this is typical of Banbury people.
by Beverley Coleman
The people came together
Someone put out the call
Help well it is needed
As the snow again does fall.
Everyone will congregate
With shovels and with sand
To clear the roads of Banbury
Who’ll give a helping hand.
It’s Hightown road that’s dodgy
The hill is very steep
No Ambulance can make it
As the snow is oh so deep.
They worked real hard and cleared the road
They did it all together
Cleared car parks at the Horton
Not shirking with the weather.
I’m proud I come from Banbury
And I thank them everyone
How they all pulled together
As it looked like so much fun.
The shovellers clearing the snow for the Horton General Hospital I don't know who took the photo, sorry.
Now for the US piece about Sugaring:
Sugaring = making Maple syrup etc
The Vermonters tend to understate things, much like many of their ancestor from Britain and Britons still do today.
A ‘sugar bush’ where they get the sap from is really a group of maple trees at least 40 years old, and far from being a bush. There can be just a few trees, or many acres of trees spread over the mountainsides, still known as a bush! If the bush is small or close to the road frequently they tap and hang a sap buckets on each tap, the sap will then run into the bucket to be collected, often if the sap is running fast, the buckets are emptied several times a day. For the large bushes, they usually put taps into the trees and run tubing through the tubes to a gathering tank. It is a collection tub close to a road for collection, or if possible straight into the sugar house.
Sugaring time is when the nights are cold and the days warm up above freezing, causing the sap to start running up the tree trunk into the branches to start the trees spring growth. The window for sugaring is short and it can start and stop several times before the season ends, which I believe is when the leaf buds fill out ready to break open.
Once the sap starts running then the cooking starts, and cooking doesn’t stop until each batch is completed, which takes many hours. It has to be reduced down to syrup. If they are going to take it down further to make candy, and then it takes even longer. I believe some still take it down to make sugar. Which is where the name of sugaring came from; it was easier and cheaper for them to make their own sugar, than to have it shipped in. There are big operation throughout the State, like the Mount Mansfield Farm, they have a large staff to do all that is necessary, but there are hundreds still, of the small farms operating, and cooking. The cooking is done in a sugar house, because of the amount of steam the cooking generates. There is an opening in the roof of the house for the steam to escape. When this happens it is called blowing off steam. There are small sugar houses dotted all over Vermont, often tucked back in the hills, or at the base of the mountains. When these small farm operations start cooking, they are going well into the small hours of the night. Once the cooking starts it has to go through to completion. To get 40 gallons of sap down to 1 gallon of syrup, it takes time. Many of the small operations still make hundreds of gallons of syrup each year. They sell them from their farm house, sugar house and Farmer’s Markets. They all have to meet very high standards, and are closely State regulated as to what grade syrup they are selling and accurate labeling and quality of syrup.
At the end of the season many farms have a sugar on snow day. Then they collect snow and pour syrup in swirls on it to harden, and then to pick it up off the snow and eat it. I love maple butter that is when they mix maple syrup into butter, how I like to eat it is spread inside a pop over, they are similar to Yorkshire pudding cooked in a large cup cake pan. It took Mike and me a while to acquire the taste for maple syrup. When Henry, a local farmer friend of ours, said try the medium or B grade, that’s what the locals prefer. He was right, much nicer in our books. That same farmer used to put maple syrup on just about everything he ate, even his meat loaf! Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the US last year I heard the amount was over 1,320,000 gallons. When you remember it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup that is a lot of sap, and a lot of cooking!!
Following are photos showing the variety of ways sugaring is done; each picture caption will explain the activity.
Sap buckets at a farm in Reading VT photo by Mike Griffis
Gathering the sap i
n reading using oxen and a sled - photo by Mike Griffis
Sugar house in Reading blowing off steam photo by Mike Griffis
Sap tube lines and collection tank at Mount Mansfield Sugar Farm Vermont all these photos are from their web site
tap into a tree
Close up of tubing used for sap to flow through
Cooking in their sugar house
Steam and holding tanks with syrup in them.
A selection of their maple syrup products.
Just a couple of pics to follow; one of a recent rare occurrence in Sacromento
the second is a fun one from a Brit living in the US, who thought this was the type bar her doctor meant, when he told her it was time to put a bar in her shower!
ice not snow!!!!
a great idea!!
That’s it folks, hope your spring will be very good, and for those going into winter I wish you a nice long autumn.
Don’t forget all, US market info PLEASE