Last week I bought a couple gifts for friends whom we had stayed with recently, during a trip to the Finger Lakes in New York. My favorite store for Vermont made gifts is Pieces of Vermont. It's a place where you can buy a huge variety of Vermont made products including maple syrup, artisan cheese, wooden kitchen accessories, specialty gourmet foods and Vermont gift baskets for any occasion.
Soon after I placed my order I got a personal note from owner Rick Smith thanking me for the purchase and saying that he was on our Vermont Woods Studios website shopping for a bed! Pretty good karma, right?
It turns out Rick's an extraordinary guy who grew up in Vermont, skied at Mount Snow and was an avid trout fisherman. He earned BS degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Information Technology. After a short career as a Manufacturing Engineer in the Aerospace Machining industry, Rick's life changed dramatically with a spinal cord injury, and he was forced to change careers.
He decided to create a website that would help Vermont's smaller businesses sell locally made specialty food items over the Internet and that's how Pieces of Vermont came about. Check it out next time you're looking for affordable Vermont made gifts or maybe even a little handmade treat for your own kitchen. Tell Rick I sent you.
Guest Blogger: Dennis Shanoff
Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture
Love Vermont Maple Syrup? Check out Vermont’s Maple Producers Open House Weekend!
Vermont sure has a whole lot of trees and it is estimated that over 75% of the state is forested. And the biggest percentage of these trees just happens to be of the maple variety.
Well year round these abundant maple trees provide wood and lumber for a variety of products such as wood bowls, cutting boards, wood toys, and of course maple wood furniture.
But come February and March these maple trees are known to produce a very special treat, real Vermont maple syrup! And no wonder with so many sugar maple trees that Vermont is the largest producer of pure organic maple syrup (not a single ingredient added) in the United States. And Vermont’s perfect climate and soil conditions also play a part in our quantity and quality of maple syrup.
So with the maple sugar season in full swing, now is the time to plan to visit Vermont and see first hand what this sugaring is all about! And you can’t beat the upcoming Vermont Maple Open House Weekend (held March 24th and 25th) to experience maple syrup production up close. This is a public celebration of the maple syrup season in Vermont and a great opportunity to visit one or more sugarhouses and see just how the clear sap of the maple tree is transformed into a delicious golden syrup.
See you at the Sugar House!
I'm sorry but I just had to drop everything and go on a rant after I saw this video clip about some loser who stole a Vermont farmer's entire harvest of maple syrup yesterday. What kind of pond scum does this?
Please help police find the perpetrator by sharing the story on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and bulletin boards. The robbery took place in Enosburgh Vermont, very close to the Canadian border so presumably the thieves are heading into Quebec to make their sale. Let's see if we can get this story into the hands of police in Quebec towns like Granby, Brom Lake, Saint Cesaire and Cowansville.
This farmer and his family have been working around the clock for the last couple months, installing some 13,000 taps, collecting over 6000 gallons of sap and boiling it down into maple syrup. Sugaring is hard work. In Vermont, we don't take this sort of thing lightly. What do you think should be the guys punishment if and when he's found? Death or life in prison?
I know you love the warm, early Spring weather but honestly, it's not so good for Vermont's maple syrup producers. This week's forecast is for mid-70s! That's unbelievable. I've never seen temperatures soar that high at this time of year.
Unfortunately, according to local sugarmakers, after 3 days of >60F weather the maple trees pretty much figure it's time to get to work making buds and leaves so they turn off the sap production and refocus their energy.
The good news is that syrup quality is very high and even if there's 25% less production this year than last, Vermont is likely to maintain it's status of being the Number 1 maple syprup producing state in the nation. Sweet!
Now… this weekend brings your chance to sample the world's best maple syrup. It's the Eleventh Annual Vermont Maple Open House Weekend, held at sugarhouses throughout Vermont, March 24 and 25. You can tour sugarhouses throughout the state, watch the syrup being boiled and try the many flavors and products as they're being made. There are approximately 2000 maple producers in Vermont so check out the Vermont Maple website for maps and directions to all the participating farms and towns.
Guest Blogger: Shannon Albritton
Customer Champion at Vermont Woods Studios
It’s certainly not a news flash that Vermont has received below average snowfall this winter. Who am I kidding? We’ve probably had less snow than Georgia (please don’t fact check this). On the heels of 2011’s over-the-top weather including abominable winter snow storms and hurricane-force floods it seems Mother Nature may be taking a time-out for bad behavior… or maybe she thinks we deserve a break?
So while ‘Mother’ is kicking back in her flip-flops [I picture her sipping a blood orange, ginger mimosa from a treehouse in Costa Rica] University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center is receiving calls from concerned maple syrup lovers with fears that this year’s easy-breezy winter could take the sweetness out of maple syrup production? We just want to know; will there be syrup for our honey-buckwheat blueberry pancakes?
Many Vermont maple syrup producers, known as sugarmakers, are beginning the season 2-3 weeks earlier this year and some long-time producers report this to be their earliest start ever. Sugarmakers are reaching out to one another seeking asking questions such as “When are you starting?” and “It is time?” One producer has decided not to tap his trees at all this year because he’s already seen signs of leaf buds. Once maple trees have begun to bud an off flower flavor occurs in the sap and brings a halt to the season.
What’s the general word from Vermont’s sugarmakers to all of us who love that sticky-sweet maple syrup, candy, taffy and it’s amber brown goodness? It looks like we’re all going to be OK. Turns out the weather while the sap is flowing is more critical than the weather leading up to the big event. Vermont sugarmakers are hoping for just the right balance of freezing and thawing temperatures during the six-week sap flow season to maintain just the right flow. For the moment they’re looking good though too many warm days and not enough freezing nights could still cause an impact. Overall sugarmakers seem encouraged that all is well in maple sugar land and our pancakes will surely be graced, once again, by our much loved liquid gold.
Although the fate of this year’s maple sugaring season may lie in the hands of a flip-flop wearing, mimosa sipping woman chilling on an exotic island, I have faith – faith that Vermont will do what Vermont always does – figure it out and make do with whatever Mother Nature blows our way.
A friend told me his young daughter has learned to read the maple trees and they tell her when the time is right to begin tapping. She hasn’t been wrong yet. I’m going to contact him and see what she’s predicting for the season. I’m guessing she’s got a hotline straight to our ‘Mother’. One thing’s for sure – Vermont’s sugarmakers aren’t ready to back down from this tap dance just yet — show us your moves Mother Nature.
Watch this delightful video of Henry Emmons, 67, of Red Rock Maple Farm in Starksboro VT and see the maple sugar flow as he started making maple syrup this week as day-time temperatures soar. (Produced my Emily McManamy, Burlington Free Press)