I know you love the warm, early Spring weather but honestly, it's not so good for Vermont's maple syrup producers. This week's forecast is for mid-70s! That's unbelievable. I've never seen temperatures soar that high at this time of year.
Unfortunately, according to local sugarmakers, after 3 days of >60F weather the maple trees pretty much figure it's time to get to work making buds and leaves so they turn off the sap production and refocus their energy.
The good news is that syrup quality is very high and even if there's 25% less production this year than last, Vermont is likely to maintain it's status of being the Number 1 maple syprup producing state in the nation. Sweet!
Now… this weekend brings your chance to sample the world's best maple syrup. It's the Eleventh Annual Vermont Maple Open House Weekend, held at sugarhouses throughout Vermont, March 24 and 25. You can tour sugarhouses throughout the state, watch the syrup being boiled and try the many flavors and products as they're being made. There are approximately 2000 maple producers in Vermont so check out the Vermont Maple website for maps and directions to all the participating farms and towns.
Guest Blogger: Shannon Albritton
Customer Champion at Vermont Woods Studios
It’s certainly not a news flash that Vermont has received below average snowfall this winter. Who am I kidding? We’ve probably had less snow than Georgia (please don’t fact check this). On the heels of 2011’s over-the-top weather including abominable winter snow storms and hurricane-force floods it seems Mother Nature may be taking a time-out for bad behavior… or maybe she thinks we deserve a break?
So while ‘Mother’ is kicking back in her flip-flops [I picture her sipping a blood orange, ginger mimosa from a treehouse in Costa Rica] University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center is receiving calls from concerned maple syrup lovers with fears that this year’s easy-breezy winter could take the sweetness out of maple syrup production? We just want to know; will there be syrup for our honey-buckwheat blueberry pancakes?
Many Vermont maple syrup producers, known as sugarmakers, are beginning the season 2-3 weeks earlier this year and some long-time producers report this to be their earliest start ever. Sugarmakers are reaching out to one another seeking asking questions such as “When are you starting?” and “It is time?” One producer has decided not to tap his trees at all this year because he’s already seen signs of leaf buds. Once maple trees have begun to bud an off flower flavor occurs in the sap and brings a halt to the season.
What’s the general word from Vermont’s sugarmakers to all of us who love that sticky-sweet maple syrup, candy, taffy and it’s amber brown goodness? It looks like we’re all going to be OK. Turns out the weather while the sap is flowing is more critical than the weather leading up to the big event. Vermont sugarmakers are hoping for just the right balance of freezing and thawing temperatures during the six-week sap flow season to maintain just the right flow. For the moment they’re looking good though too many warm days and not enough freezing nights could still cause an impact. Overall sugarmakers seem encouraged that all is well in maple sugar land and our pancakes will surely be graced, once again, by our much loved liquid gold.
Although the fate of this year’s maple sugaring season may lie in the hands of a flip-flop wearing, mimosa sipping woman chilling on an exotic island, I have faith – faith that Vermont will do what Vermont always does – figure it out and make do with whatever Mother Nature blows our way.
A friend told me his young daughter has learned to read the maple trees and they tell her when the time is right to begin tapping. She hasn’t been wrong yet. I’m going to contact him and see what she’s predicting for the season. I’m guessing she’s got a hotline straight to our ‘Mother’. One thing’s for sure – Vermont’s sugarmakers aren’t ready to back down from this tap dance just yet — show us your moves Mother Nature.
Watch this delightful video of Henry Emmons, 67, of Red Rock Maple Farm in Starksboro VT and see the maple sugar flow as he started making maple syrup this week as day-time temperatures soar. (Produced my Emily McManamy, Burlington Free Press)
Dennis and Manjula have been working on getting a beautiful selection of Copeland Bedroom Furniture Sets up on our website.
Copeland is our newest line of Vermont made furniture and their styles include traditional, Shaker and modern furniture, such as the:
Berkeley Cherry Bedroom Set (Modern Asian style)
Copeland's signature style is kind of a clean, simple elegance that's very popular in the more chic neighborhhods of Manhattan and other cities. But we love it up here in rural Vernon VT too!
A few logistical details: the sets are designed to save you on shipping. We couldn't lower the prices of the furniture in the sets because we already have Copeland furniture priced as low as possible. In fact we have a low price guarantee on Copeland furniture. But with the sets, you save on shipping– which is significant. Rather than paying $300/piece for white glove delivery, you can order as many pieces as you like and pay just $450 for shipping and white glove delivery of the whole set.
Check out the sets and let us know what you think. We've tried to make them versatile so you can customize your set online with any combination of pieces you might like, but I'm sure we haven't thought of everything. Give us a call if you can't find the exact pieces you need for your set. Rebecca and Shannon will be happy to hear from you!
One more thing. So far we just have Copeland bedroom sets up but in another month or so we'll have their collection of Frank Lloyd Wright dining sets as well. If you're looking to purchase before then, just call.
Similar to the term American Made Furniture, there's no standard definition for "fine furniture". But a customer brought this up yesterday so I thought I'd take a shot at it. At Vermont Woods Studios we specialize in fine wood furniture, rather than upholstered furniture so I'll keep the discussion confined to that.
This may seem odd, but I'm going to put style aside for another subject because I think each creative woodworker has his or her own ideas about style. Naturally there has to be a strategic blending of form and function, but making a judgement about that is personal and subjective– you could write a library of books about it and still not reach a conclusion. I'm not sure style belongs in a definition for fine furniture.
So for now I'll stick to tangible perameters like craftsmanship, uniqueness, joinery, type of wood, type of finish, sustainability and durability– plus one intangible which I'll call karma. Today let's look at the type of wood a piece of furniture is made with first– then we can consider the other characteristics in the next few posts.
Fine wood furniture starts with hardwood (like cherry, maple, walnut and oak) as opposed to soft wood (like pine and other coniferous woods). Furthermore, in today's world (by my definition anyway) those hardwoods are grown sustainably in America as opposed to imported woods that are clear cut from the world's rapidly disappearing rainforests (like ipe, rubberwood, mahogany, jatoba and teak–this ties into a karma discussion). You can learn more about American hardwood species here: cherry wood, maple wood, walnut wood, oak wood.
It's not just the wood species that sets fine wood furniture apart. Once a species is selected, fine woodworkers go to greath lengths to carefully select each board that goes into a piece of furniture, depending on where the board is being placed (like in a drawer front, part of a table top, an accent piece or part of the frame).
Woodworkers select boards based on things like grain, color, texture, shape, character and whether it's part of the tree's heartwood (inner circles of the tree and dark in color) or sapwood (outer circles of the tree and light in color). There are different levels of attention to detail in wood selection and they are reflected in the price of a piece of furniture. Many of our woodworkers in Vermont are aligned with the philosophy of George Nakishima who felt that wood selection is an almost sacred art that honors The Soul of a Tree. Others are more practical but both philosophies on wood selection can be the foundation of a great piece of "fine furniture" depending on what the customer is looking for.
Wondering how to select the right hardwood for your furniture? For most of our customers, wood color is the first priority when selecting a hardwood, followed by strength and durability. At Vermont Woods Studios we offer exclusively American hardwoods that are harvested responsibly from well managed forests.
One of the characteristics that customers are often surprised about is that some woods change colors over time, as they are exposed to light. Black cherry is the most notable of these woods. It can start out almost as light as maple wood, but over time it will mature and ripen to a deep, rich reddish brown color.
Have any questions about furniture hardwoods? Give us a call! We'll look forward to hearing from you.