Dateline: 30 March 2006
Oh what a glorious day this was. The sun was shining, the sap was flowing, and I decided to come home from work a couple hours earlier than usual.
Marlene and the kids finished boiling down a batch of maple syrup that we started boiling yesterday. Last night we added lots of wood to the fire under the pan, filled the pan with sap, and went to bed. I woke up at 3:00 to check on things. The fire had burned down to just a few coals and the sap had evaporated down a few inches. I put more wood on the fire, added more sap to the pan, and went back to bed. Then Marlene got up at 3:30 and went outside to check on the pan. She did not know I had already been out there a half hour earlier. When we got up this morning she told me she had gotten up at 3:30 to check things out and was discouraged because the firewood we put on before we went to bed hadn’t burned and the sap was still high in the pan.
Robert and James and Annie (our dog) found a muskrat in the creek behind our house today. They were going to get a camera and take a picture and leave it be but Annie jumped in the water and got the critter. She also got a significant bite on the side of her mouth from it. When I got home, Robert had the animal nicely skinned and washed and he hung it in the sun to dry the fur. This is the first time they have ever gotten a muskrat and I have to say it is the first time I have seen a muskrat up close. The fur is very soft. It is not the fur of a common rat.
But the best part of this day was that I started working in my garden! My garlic has been a couple of inches out of the ground most of the winter. The tops are looking a little drab but they should green up and really start growing now. I decided it was a good day to hoe between the rows. There are no weeds to speak of between the rows now, but I thought it would be good to cultivate the soil a bit after being packed down by the winter snow. The sandy soil was damp and soft but not sticky-- perfect for hoeing.
I have three favorite hoes that hang outside the door of my workshop. I leave them there all year because there is an overhang to protect them from the weather, and I like to look at them hanging there. I ALWAYS hang my hoes back in their place when I am done using them. I do not do this with every tool I own but I do it with my hoes. However, today when I went to get a hoe to work the soil between my garlic rows, one hoe, the one I wanted, was missing.
With three boys around, it is common for a tool to not be where it is supposed to be when I need it. And we have had incidents where I’ve gotten upset because I find one of my tools out in the woods rusting because a boy left it there. Or, worse, it mysteriously disappears... vanishes into thin air, never to be seen again. I think every father with tools and boys has this problem. But everyone in this family knows that my favorite hoes had better be where they are supposed to be because, well, they are my favorite hoes!
I calmly asked Robert if he had used my hoe. He said “no.” I said, “Well, it’s missing. It has been hanging where it is supposed to hang all winter and today, when I want to use it, it’s gone.” He started looking around the shop. I looked around too. My ire was starting to rise but I kept my cool. After a few moments I headed into the house to ask Marlene if maybe she had seen my hoe. Well, it turned out that she had used it to rake coals around in the 55 gallon steel drum that we build a fire in to heat up our maple syrup evaporator pan.
I made a beeline for the sugar shack, thinking that my beloved hoe was probably half burned. I inspected it carefully and, to my relief, found that it was unharmed. So I took it to my shop, clamped the head in my vise and sharpened the blade with a file. A sharpened hoe is a delight to use and I used it for the next hour and a half. It was so good to be back in my garden, working in the sun and the soil. Oh, what a glorious day this was!