It has been an embarrassingly long time – over a year and a half! – since I last updated this blog. It’s certainly not for a lack of trying. But a lot has happened, and finding the time to write about it kept getting away from me. The long and short is that we had a triply successful 2016 season: in the woods, in the sugarhouse, and on the farmers’ market circuit. With the help of Colin Kaferle, our beloved friend and trusty woodsworker, we added close to a thousand taps last year. That meant more syrup in the bank for all of you – a total of 33 barrels – most of which we were able to sell retail via farmers’ markets and at an increasing number of stores all over Maine. We also have started aging small quantities of syrup in bourbon barrels, which lends a delicious, subtly oaky flavor to a product already full of woody essences. Those bottles feature a beautiful new label by Alexis Iammarino with hand-drawn ermines (a favorite sugarhouse visitor) and lettering inspired by old 1950s Chinese restaurant menus. Since we age the syrup in advance, we had only a limited supply in 2016, and it disappeared quickly. In fact we sold almost all of it at the Common Ground Fair, over three whirlwind and wonderful days! We hope to age about a third of our crop this year to keep up with demand. We’re now using five-gallon mini-barrels from Split Rock Organic Distillery in Newcastle, which can infuse syrup with all that barrel juice in about half the time.
Perhaps most excitingly, 2016 brought us a son! Fed off the fat of trades from the farmers’ markets in utero, he was born on September 9, a happy, pink-cheeked, perfect human! He was, I might add, born a lucky two weeks early, as his official due date was the Saturday the 28th, smack dab in the middle of the Common Ground Fair weekend. His early arrival allowed him to pay a brief visit to his papa and to Pat Hunt, both of whom heroically manned the booth at the Fair for an insane 72 hours. While I was massively pregnant and then recovering at home, we also had help from a slew of other friends and family members who worked farmers’ markets, helped load and unload Subaru station wagons full of syrup, and who babysat while I canned syrup and made candy. Of special note: my aunt Sherry and uncle Ted, who have travelled from Vermont a gazillion times over the past year, and who, among myriad other contributions, volunteered their Fourth of July weekend in Jackman, helping to put the gable ends on the sugarhouse at long last. And worth shouting out, again, Pat Hunt: available at the drop of a hat when we got a scary-early run of sap this February (global warming, much?) his tapping help was absolutely invaluable. It allowed VJ to spend a few more precious hours with me and the baby, even during his most stressful time of year. As a result, despite the distractions of new parenthood, we’re starting off the season readier than we’ve ever been.
The business, too, is growing. I was able to leave my teaching job in June of 2015, and now work flexibly as a freelance writer between sugarmaking tasks. In addition to all the old standbys, we now sell our syrup and candy at Rising Tide Coop in Damariscotta, Local Market in Brunswick, and Fine and Dandelion in Carmel. And we have been admitted into two new farmers’ markets for the upcoming 2017 season: in addition to Camden and Northeast Harbor, we’ll now be at Bar Harbor on Sundays and in Boothbay on Thursdays from May through October.
We’ve just completed our first boil of the season, and look forward to a busy month ahead. This is, of course, our favorite time of year, when, huddled around the evaporator and watching the sap fill the tanks, we can bask in the sweetness of spring. Then we can bottle it and pass it along to you.
Cheers to the season, and thanks so much for your support!
-Carrie, VJ and Quinn