The sugar house is the place where the magic happens each spring in Vermont. Growing up in Canada, we called them sugar shacks or cabanes à sucres (in french) but it's the same structure and the same tradition. This is where maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees.
Maple sugaring has evolved over the years with arches being built, containing the heat from a roaring wood fire (more commonly fuel is used now). The arch holds the large flat pans on top. Now evaporators are used in most sugar houses to do this function. Each sugar house has the characteristic cupola on the roof which allows the sweet maple scented steam to billow out. Notice the above image doesn't have a proper cupola...I'll explain this unique sugar house later on.
It is estimated that there are some 3500 sugar makers in Vermont. Some very small backyard sugar makers like me (tapping just a few trees), some tap a few thousand trees and have a sugar house like the multi-generational families I partner with and some sugar makers have very large operations.
I wanted to share some images of my favourite sugar houses with you and tell you a bit about each one. This is just a small sampling so I'll share more images in future posts.
Hartshorn's Sugar House & Mill
Harshorn Sugar House - the Original (on Lincoln Gap)
Hartshorn Sugar House - Opened Spring 2016
The original Hartshorn sugar house on Lincoln Gap collapsed many years ago. The family moved their sugaring operation to the mill on their farm in Waitsfield after the collapse but still tap the same trees surrounding the original sugar house. Just last year they moved to a newer and much improved sugar house closer to the road but still on their farm. I love the look of the old mill because it's where Paul Hartshorn still works his lumber business and it has so much character like Paul himself.
Vasseur's Sugar House
I first visited this sugar house in the early nineties when I moved here from Canada. I brought my kids here when we first moved in as the Vasseur's neighbours in 2002. My kids were ages 2, 4 and 7 at the time. Spike Vasseur filled them to the gills with samples of warm maple syrup - Fancy of course. When we hiked down the hill back to our farm, my kids were so high on sugar that it took me hours to settle them back down for bedtime.
Images of more favourites will be featured in future posts so look out for them!