Spring in the sugar bush...and what IS a sugar bush?
Sometimes when we are talking about the sugar bush, we have to stop and explain what exactly a sugar bush is. It's a term used to describe a stand of forest with maples whose sap is harvested. In the old days, the main use of maple sap was to make sugar--hence, "sugar bush". Many, many tapped their own trees and made their own sugar, which was quite a boon to them, since white sugar had to be purchased, and wasn't something they could produce themselves. Back in those days, maple sugar was "everyday" sugar, and white sugar was saved for company or special occasions. Funny how things change... Kind of like how lobster used to be poor man's food. (!!)
Maintaining the sugar bush is kind of like gardening on a huge scale. The weaker, unhealthy trees we harvest for firewood--to heat our home in the winter and to fire the evaporator we use to make maple syrup. Trees that are too crowded we thin, so those left can grow healthy and strong. Some sugar bush owners cut all or nearly all of the trees that aren't maples, but there is something to be said for diversity in the forest, and we like a healthy mix of different trees in our bush. Not only does it make for healthy woods, but trees are beautiful things. Along with the sugar maple, which we call rock maple in Maine, we have red maple (white maple in local vernacular), red oak, ash, beech, hornbeam, poplar, white birch, yellow birch, and a few scattered softwoods--mostly spruce and hemlock.
Our home is surrounded by the sugar bush. There is rarely a day when we aren't out in it for one reason or another. Working, walking, riding, and just enjoying it's beauty, for it is indeed a beautiful place.