No. I couldn’t care less about basketball. I am referring to sugaring weather. Typically, March is the month for making syrup. Our wierd weather has changed what used to be routine around here. We can no longer count on the frigid nights and balmy days that get the sap flowing. Last week was perfect but after four days of perfect weather, we got a weekend of cold, nasty, windy, rainy days followed by nights that stayed in the mid 30s and the sap has stopped running. The weather should return to a normal pattern tomorrow but it may not be in time to save the season. If the sap is too buddy, the season is over. Syrup will be sparse and really expensive. Let’s all hope the run will return.

Syrup is an excellent example of why real food cost so much more than fake food. It is inconsistent. Nature determines the run. A bad run can’t be saved by chemistry. Making syrup requires complete dedication to the process. This starts with supporting a healthy forest ecosystem and ends with the maintenance of the equipment and the gathering of fuel to feed the fire the following year. There is no taking off because you’re sick or not in the mood or because your cousin planned a destination wedding in Bermuda. Burned syrup can’t be salvaged. Watery syrup will not keep. The syrup must be watched and coddled and babied. It’s a lot easier, completely dependable and much less expensive to mix sugar or corn syrup and water, add a bit of artificial flavoring and call it food. It’s sweet and cheap and looks like the real stuff. Kids who grow up with Aunt Jemima will  prefer the taste, unaware of the ambrosia of real syrup, complex and rich.

Honey is the same. Getting a good harvest takes a full year of work. One does not just stick a hive on the back lot and gather 100 pounds of honey a year later. Bees are livestock and need all the care of any animal that provides you with food. The cheap honey you get in the market, even if it has a US label on it, may have originated in China, been cut with corn syrup, shipped to the US, repackaged with a Product of United States label and sold to you at an irresistible price. It looks the same, it tastes similar. If you aren’t fussy, it will do.

Each month, a local artist sets up a show at our Community House. On the opening night, there is food and wine and wonderful company. As the CH is across the street, Bruce and I rarely miss an opening. The art is generally good, occasionally outrageously bad and, once in a while, sublime. This Friday night fell into the sublime. My dear friend, Leni Fried, had a showing of her prints of trees. Amazing stuff. Her prints are like good food, deep and rich and complex. They take time and attention to detail and a dedication to the process. They can’t be rushed and one is never exactly like another.

It was a wonderful night. Outside, the wind howled and an icy rain peppered us as we walked over. Inside, the room was warm with conversation. Our good friend, Josh, (Radio Free Earth-look for his CD’s) played the guitar and sang. Little kids danced to the music and chased each other up and down the hallway. The air smelled like syrup; no surprise as the theme of the evening’s food was maple syrup. We ate some fabulous stuff. The beans were grown my dear friends, Sheri and Barbara, and flavored with syrup. They were nothing like the gelatinous mass that one dumps from a can. Maple popcorn, maple pumpkin bread, even maple roasted fingerling potatoes and an amazing chilled asparagus, marinated in maple syrup, sesame seeds and balsamic vinegar were brought in. Our best friends were there and the conversation hopped from politics to preparedness to gardens to orchards. I hated to see it end.

My good friend (I know-I call a lot of people my good, dear friend but I swear, I do have the best friends in the world), Kathy McMahon, aka the Peak Shrink, announced that she is going on a speaking tour to talk about the psychological implications of Peak Oil. Kathy is really smart, very funny and well worth a read and a listen. She maintains a blog, peakoilblues.com. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, make a point of attending one of her presentations. I will give out details as soon as I have them.

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