Last week, I decided to skim through my airfare-deal e-mail before deleting it, and it included a really good weekend fare for visiting my parents. I quickly confirmed that they wouldn’t object to my imposing on them and then bought my tickets. I am very, very glad that I did. I love living in a (walkable!) city, and I like a lot of things about Philly, but I occasionally need to be in Not A City, preferably someplace with mountains.

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I spent most of the flight up on Saturday morning staring out the window. (At least, once we were far enough north of the rain around Philly that there were occasional glimpses of land through the clouds. Before that, I was just knitting.)

I would’ve been fine with simply visiting my parents on an ordinary mud-season weekend, but it was Vermont Maple Weekend, with open houses at lots of sugarhouses all over the state, so we decided to stop at a few of them as a framework for driving around the mountains and looking at scenery.

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Horses!  Clearly ones that’d been living in the North all winter, too.  I’m not sure whether they were working horses, since I didn’t notice any tasks which were obviously theirs, but I don’t often see shaggy horses around here.  (Or cows or camels, for that matter.   I guess there must be at least two farms in Vermont with camels…)  The first sugarhouse where we stopped wasn’t boiling then, but they showed us their setup and described how they use a reverse osmosis filter thingy to cut the boiling volume in half (and then use some of the purified water to clean out the filters at the end of the day).  I was surprised to hear of reverse osmosis being used for something other than water purification, but it seems like a really sensible idea.

Next, we went to the Green Mountain Audubon, which looked really different from the last time I was there.  The sugarhouse is down the hill from much of the hiking area, but they’re still using metal buckets instead of plastic tubing for their sap collection.  (It sounds like they want to change that, if for no other reason than that some of the trees are hard to get to, but I don’t know when that might happen.)  They were boiling sap while we were there, which was fun to watch.

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Very high-tech closure on their evaporator.

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Of course, part of the reason they needed force to keep the door closed is that they have a blower under the fire, to keep the flames high.

They had fresh, warm samples of medium-amber syrup in the boiling area, which made me question my long-held preference for grade B syrup, but there was also a taste-test up the hill a bit, by the how-syrup-is-made shed and the barn where they were selling sugar on shaved ice (there not being any snow this year).  The medium amber is tasty, but grade B is better.  No question.

We stopped at two other sugarhouses on the way home, both of which offered samples of their syrup, and I was impressed at how much of a difference there was from one place to another, even with the standardization of grades.

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The rest of the weekend will have to wait–it’s time for cleaning and then cookie-baking.

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