In the teasing warmth of this afternoon, we visit the Gaining Ground sugar house for one of their first boils this season. Like a bit of Vermont in our own neighborhood, the perfumed steam breathes out the door and roof vent, while visitors gather around the boiler to share stories of their sugaring memories and make acquaintances. Gaining Ground currently taps 175 sugar maples on both public and private land in Concord and Carlisle. The finished syrup is distributed to local food pantries in the greater Boston area. For more about Gaining Ground's farming mission and who they serve, see http://gainingground.org/our-mission.
|With daughter Rosie and friend Sean Morris in the foreground|
Farm coordinator, Kayleigh Boyle, stokes the fire and introduces us to the workings of their modern boiler. Sugar boils are scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons until mid-March, weather permitting, and are open to visitors. The sugar house is located on the driveway into Gaining Ground and Thoreau Farm, at 341 Virginia Road.
|Enjoying the steamy warmth while farmer Kayleigh Boyle gives us the story|
|Thoreau Farm in the background|
|Shafts of light, curls of smoke|
|Discussing maple syrup grades|
|Stoking the fire|
|Volunteers collect sap at our tree on March 9th this year|
Natural stands of sugar maples are a rare feature on the Concord landscape. In 1851, Thoreau was alerted to the only natural stand that was known at that time, or since, behind Darius Miles' property near the "Corner" (Nine Acre Corner). "Found a grove of young sugar maples (Acer saccharinum) behind what was Mile's. How silently and yet startlingly the existence of these sugar maples was revealed to me... (Journal, Sept 24, 1851). On November 8, 1860 he added, "The sugar maples occupy, together with oaks of the same size, about thirty rods, or say ten rods by three. The largest about five inches diameter, but generally quite small. They have sprung from quite small stumps, commonly not bigger than themselves at most." Thoreau's description suggests that this copse of sugar maples, covering about .2 acres of woodland, had likely once been used as a woodlot.
|These wild sugar maples predominately grow down the steep sides of a south facing ravine, and "silently and startlingly make themselves known" to the seeker, as Thoreau describes, especially prior to peak foliage time.|
|The colorful canopies of sugar maples rising out of the ravine|