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Sweet Taste of Spring

The season's first sap makes the finest maple syrup—but not without some backbreaking labors of love

When it’s my turn to load the firebox, I put on heavy gloves and swing open the door. I pitch 18 big pieces of wood onto the glowing coals. Within seconds, the new wood is ablaze, and the sap rumbles back up to a frothing boil. After a bit, Anita decides it’s time to do a test. She opens a valve, and a thick stream of hot, amber liquid pours out of a spigot into the waiting can. In a typical season, the Richardsons fill 180 of the ten-gallon cans which, at the current retail rate of $30 a gallon, figures out to a gross of $54,000.

Ezra and Emory come rolling down the road from the cow barn on their little wagon. With hardly a moment’s badgering, they get their grandfather to pour them out some warm maple syrup. Holding their cups in both hands, they are quiet for once, deep in concentration, sucking in the flavor of their world.

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