Several recent posts have dealt with signs of Spring. Nothing in Vermont speaks to early Spring as much as "sugaring", the annual task of tapping Maple trees and distilling the sap down to a sweet, amber nectar. My friends, Sandy and Jim Peplau, are among the longtime area Maple Syrup producers on their Reading, VT farm called "Happy Acres". Jim grew up on this family farm and to know him is to have a connection with a much different Vermont than the one presented by the ski industry. On Sunday afternoon I accompanied Jim as he visited one of his "sugar bushes" freshly tapping trees in hopes that the sap would soon flow. The snow is still thigh deep in the woods, snow shoes were definitely required equipment, and I was quite impressed with Jim's "sure footedness" on his snow shoes. Tapping the tress required frequent crossings of barbed wire fences, ducking under tubing, and standing precariously close to a "drop off". As you can see the height of the snow made crossing the fences a little bit easier. The days of the bucket hung on the side of the tree are long gone, although Jim recalled adventures of hauling the buckets down steep hillsides as a youth. Today hundreds of feet of tubing are strung along the Maple trees in a way that gravity will pull the sap down to a large container. At individual trees short sections of tubing lead to a tap. Jim with an experienced eye would pick a new spot on the tree not too close to an old "tap hole" and drill a hole to a preset depth. Then he would drive the tap into place. Depending on the size of the tree 2 taps would be put in place and occasionaly 3 taps. The oldest tree tapped had to be at least 10 feet in girth and no telling how old. I had the pleasure of being able to photograph JIm at work and avoiding the steeper and more precarious positions. Because I knew I wanted both some closeups as well as wider angle shots I had my Nikkor 18-200mm lens mounted and the pictures shot at either f6.3 or f11 in aperture priority mode. I did put exposure compensation to +0.3 to compensate for the impact of the snow on the camera meter. Please watch the slide show.