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Spring in the sugar bush...and what IS a sugar bush?

May morning in the 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.

The fringes of the woods are green. Just starting to see the haze from leaves coming on some of the trees--mostly poplars.

Moss is beautiful.

Canada mayflowers are everywhere here. They will have a small clump of fragrant white flowers in a couple of weeks. Their vivid green leaves literally carpet the woods floor.

If you aren't careful, you will miss the sweet violets. They are a humble little blossom, content to hide themselves amongst the other greenery on the woods floor. But it is good to stoop down to see the little things, and while you are down there, take a deep breath of their sweet, sweet scent. They are aptly named.

Trout lilies (aka "Dogtooth violets") with their yellow blossoms like snips of sunshine and their mottled leaves grow in mats where the soil is a bit damp.

All the Canada mayflower leaves in the morning sunshine

A very happy sugar maple dripping with blossoms. If you look again, you can see the tiny maple leaves as well

A close-up of the maple blossoms.

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