A visit to the sugarhouse

In suburban Chicago, from whence I hail, the “Sugar Shack” is a place off the highway, right over the Wisconsin border, where groups of women go to see buff men in g-strings dance for dollar bills. Bachelorette parties. Sorority reunions. That sort of thing.

Imagine my surprise, then, upon moving to Vermont, to hear my co-workers say things like “we’re taking the kids out to the sugarshack this weekend.” Um, really?

I caught on quick enough, but it took me this long (six years) to actually get to a sugarhouse (the preferred term, I’ve since learned). What was I waiting for? ! I had the privilege last weekend of visiting Turkey Hill Farm in Randolph Center, where Margaret and Stuart Osha collect the sap in steel buckets attached directly to the maple trees, and gather it from the fifty-acre forest with a team of horses.

Talk about the quiet life. In the forest, “you can actually hear the sap dripping into the buckets,” Margaret notes.

The day I visited, a dozen friends and neighbors stopped into the sugarhouse to watch the sap boil, staying to chat and waiting for the thermometer to read 219 degrees. If it takes a while? More time to catch up. The fire crackles in the old Grimm evaporator and reminds the visitor that the old way worked just fine, thank you very much.

The Oshas welcome visitors to their sugarhouse this Maple Open House weekend, and for a series of cooking classes this spring and summer in their Farmers Kitchen. Learn how to make crème fraîche from raw milk and why lard is the best fat you’re not eating. And get inspired about the future of small-scale sustainable farming and eating.

More in today’s Times-Argus.

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