“We have made a noble lot of nice sugar”

Maple sugaring on Brigham Hill, ca 1940

It’s sugaring season. From the news reports, it sounds like this year will not be as productive as in the past. If you can believe it, in the nineteenth-century half the farmers in town made maple sugar. In 1850 Norwich farmers produced 25,000 pounds of sugar, or about 200 pounds per farm.

Maple sugaring on the Metcalf Farm, Dutton Hill, 1915.

Norwich’s farm diaries all provide glimpses into the sugaring season. Ebenezer Brown wrote about the season in 1875. It all began in March. They had to prepare all the tubs and break a road into the sugar bush….

April 27
A very pleasant day.
William and Charles have been scalding and preparing the sap tubs, fixing the arch for shugar making.

April 29
William and Charles at work on the wood pile. This pm broke a road into the sugar place.

Soon they had some sugar and immediately had a taste…

April 1
A mild cloudy day
Charles boiling sap. He had the first new sugar of the season for the tea table this pm.

Charles, and occasionally his father Ebenezer, boiled throughout April. Soon, they had to balance the boiling with other farm chores…

April 12
Charles carting manure on the hill this am. Gathering and boiling sap this pm.

April 14
A most beautiful day the sap has flowed plentifully. Charles boiling sap gathered

Spring….then winter….then spring. Sleighs…then spring cleaning and spring eggs. They switched from making sugar to syrup in mid-April.

April 17
A pleasant day but some like winter as there was a foot of new snow lying on the ground which fell the previous night. The sleighs have passed all day. Charles and William moved home two loads of hay. Self and Mary cleaned the bedroom this am. I sugared off three messes of syrup. William carried two doz and half of eggs to the store and bought some groceries.

April 22
A beautiful spring like day. Charles carting manure this am. This pm made a stone dragg and gathered two barrels of sap.

The end of April brought the end of sugaring…and the beginning of a new cycle in the farm year.

April 28 A most beautiful summer like day. Charles gathered the last of the sap also the tubs. Ellen has attended the public examination of teachers and is to have a certificate.

April 29
Pleasant and sunny this a.m. I have sugared off for the last time. We have made a noble lot of nice sugar. Some four or five hundred pounds.

In this video Fred Ladd talks about a bucket for maple syrup collecting that was made by his great-great-grandfather.

The Sugarhouse Vermont Project

Do you have a sugarhouse on your property? The Sugarhouse Vermont project is identifying and documenting Vermont sugarhouses. They are interested in photographs of even remnants of this important Vermont architectural legacy. You can see photos and learn about how to share your photos by clicking on this link.

And, if you do have sugaring photos or an old sugarhouse on your property, we’d also love to have a photo. You can email us at: info@norwichhistory.org to let us know. Thanks to so those of you who have shared your photos. You can see some of the photos we received in the carousel below.