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    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Treehugger meets treestabbers
March 8, 2010 - 5:01pm

A local crew of treestabbers has been around my place fairly regularly for the past week. And that's OK with me.

The stabbers in question are children of a neighbor of mine. They"stab" my sugar maples with steel taps connected to plastic tubes which run into covered buckets, collecting sap to make maple syrup. When sugaring season is over, we put a dab of tree paint on each puncture wound. The trees don't seem to mind at all.

These kids are growing up on the farm across the road from mine, and down a bit.Their family has been farming for generations; none of them has any expectation of ever having to "work off" (as in "off the farm"). They expect their descendants to farm for generations hence. And to sugar -- sugaring is one of the traditional ways farm families augment their incomes in this part of the country.

But the truth is, maple sugaring in the northeastern United States is a dying trade. Seasons are shortening. Yields are down. And it's only going to get worse. As our winters get milder (in temperature if not in wind and snowfall) and our springs get warmer faster, the sap just doesn't flow the way it used to. I've heard foresters predict that, within a generation or two, the sugaring trade will have moved entirely north of the border into Canada.

I've had Canadian maple syrup. I can't tell it from the local product. It's almost like the trees don't care what flag flies above the sugarhouse or even what language the sap-boilers speak. To me, it doesn't really matter so long as I don't have to cover my waffles in that evil corn syrup stuff (not that I'm opinionated on the subject, or anything!).

But it matters to those kids. Or it will, when they learn about it. It won't much affect them this year or next, and they're too young to worry their heads about what comes after that. So I didn't tell them.

Does that make me a tree-stabber-hugger?


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