Good Gear

For the past week, I’ve been going out to the woods for about 2 hours each day and collecting Balsam Fir boughs. I’ve been doing this for years for my friends at the Einerlei store in Chassell, MI. They use these fir boughs to make Christmas wreaths. I take the opportunity to cut down the fir trees that are encroaching into my maple orchard. Our balsam fir is a bit of a weed tree. They often don’t get large enough to make lumber, and the lumber you get isn’t particularly good. Balsam Fir does have a few things going for it, though. The wood and the needles smell VERY nice. And the needles stay on longer than most other conifers in our area. So the tradition is to use these boughs for wreath making… and it is about the only time of the year these trees have much of any value. As a bonus, after clearing off the branches from the fir trunks, I cut and split them for firewood for the maple syrup operation. There isn’t much heat in fir, but the heat does come quickly and hot, which is just what you want when boiling sap.

IMG_3987It seems like this year we have had more rain and snow than usual during the fir gathering season. And I have to say my gear has been performing for me admirably. I have a Carhart ™ jacket that unfailingly keeps me warm, Muck Boots ™ that keep my feet warm and dry, and that wonderful Yooper innovation, choppers for my hands. Sometimes when I come in, everything seems soaked, but I’m pretty comfortable and warm. I think 2 hours in these conditions is about right for me. Otherwise moisture starts to seep in, cold follows, and misery is just a short drive down the road.

I have to say I take no satisfaction in cutting down trees. They are resilient and beautiful creatures that do a lot of good for the ecosystems they are a part of. Balsam Firs, however, are not my favorite tree, and as the years go by and the clearing of the sugarbush of these trees continues, I continue to be struck by how the forest is opening up, and how the paths between my tapped trees, which I’ve walked so many times, are opening up to allow better access to the maple trees. The fir trees are especially troublesome, because when I brush past them with my buckets of maple sap, they seem to take pleasure in dumping twigs and needles into my buckets.

My advice to those of you that see the wisdom in being outside, but dread the cold and wet, is to concentrate on your gear. With decent equipment, you can stay out and enjoy the forest in almost any weather without being miserable.

One Response to “Good Gear”

  1. Dina Ariel says:

    Aren’t there covers for your sap buckets?

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