June 21, 2020 | Blog, In The News

“No price is set on the lavish summer; June may be had by the poorest comer.  ”    

Dear friends, what a tumultuous spring we have had in the United States and worldwide. While the Covid-19 lockdown proved challenging for our hearts and minds, we have also been consumed with the clear and present racism in our country. Our president continues to stoke the flames of hate and has also now worked to limit rights for transgender Americans. It seems there is no minority group who is safe in our nation right now, and so we must all work to insist on safety, equity and inclusion. 

I chose this June quote, written by 19th century poet James Russell Lowell, as it illustrates the very basic ideal that the beauty of June is for everyone. Beyond that, the beauty of nature is for everyone. The recent, awful encounter between a black birder and a white woman in Central Park highlighted the exclusion people of color still experience in the outdoors, and really who gets to enjoy nature without harassment. Audubon has been doing a great series about Black Birders Week, and at The Sustainability Academy we work hard to get kids out of Burlington, and into nature. I have been thinking quite a lot about our abundance of beautiful, open space and I’ve begun to reach out to groups who might like to use our trails. While the threat of Covid-19 still looms, it is unclear if any groups will be able to use our trails this summer but many individuals have ventured to our kiosk and walked through the sugarbush. I can’t imagine ever not being able to walk through the woods without peace and joy and I think it’s important to share the gift of this property with my students and other community members. 

As we’ve been working through the pandemic and societal change in the US, we are also trying to grow, innovate and find ways to sell maple syrup and maple products. I had just gotten comfortable with a Specialty Market routine last fall and had hoped to represent in others this summer. Unfortunately, lots of things are canceled, but we will persevere!  Read on for some delicious maple recipes and news from the farm!

Look at this great study group! As a member of the Bird Friendly Maple Project, we were particularly enthused to take part in this efficacy study. This team of field technicians will be in the sugarbush this summer, establishing study plots and determining how well our stewardship is providing healthy bird habitats. The researchers are members of Cold Hollow to Canada,  Audubon Vermont and  The Vermont Center for Ecostudies. Here is a particularly lovely Field Guide to June, written by staff at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. As an agricultural business, we see the connectedness between our forest and these organizations. When we work together, our environment and businesses will thrive.

Make do or do without! My father always said this to us when we were struggling to find success in whatever was our current endeavor. This spring, we’ve been thinking a lot about how to “make do,” given the change in the bulk rate of syrup and the uncertainty in our economy and other areas. Many years ago, my aunt and uncle started an organic Christmas tree farm. We have kept the farm going on a very small scale and advertised just within our Huntington community. This spring we decided to truly incorporate the tree farm into the Couching Lion Maple Sugar Farm business. We welcomed 300 baby balsams to our field below the kiosk, and they seem to be happy here! This part of our property is in The Vermont Land Trust, which helped us qualify for a small Market Adaptation Grant. Happily, we’ll continue the tradition of using only organic fertilizer and never treating the trees or fields with pesticides or herbicides.

June’s fame is due not only to beautiful weather, but the abundance of graduations and the conclusion of another school year. I found myself getting particularly teary watching my nephew’s drive through graduation, which was streamed live from Kailua, Hawaii. I watched about 20 cars pass through a line of teachers before I recognized my sister and the kids. The people closest to the camera made some casual remarks about the wonderfulness of this family, which we wouldn’t have heard if the whole thing wasn’t being streamed live. Ahh, bright spots!

Also a bright spot was the “promotion” of my own 5th grade students at the Sustainability Academy. The 5th grade runs a Farmers Market which also allows for countless opportunities to learn about business, food sources, local farmers and partnerships. They sell lots of different maple products from our farm. I really enjoy working with them and missed all of our spring markets, which have featured the popular maple ice cream. For the 5th grade promotion, we filled bags with special items, one being a pint of Couching Lion Maple Sugar Farm syrup. I want them all to enjoy a little sweetness this summer!

June is also a month to celebrate our fathers. Sadly, my father died suddenly when he was just 66. The top picture shows how much he loved us. We miss him a lot and wish he had lived to see our work on the sugar farm. I think he would have liked all the active endeavors and the sweet rewards!

While we miss my dad, we are so grateful to spend Father’s Day with Matt’s dad, Ronald Menard. Ron taught Matt how to build beautiful things and continues to be an inspiration for working hard and enjoying it along the way. Ron is the “Chief Boiler,” at Cedar Rail Farm (home to sister Amy and brother in law Steve) and has taught us so much about sugaring. We’re looking forward to seeing Matt’s family on Father’s Day, when they’ll all come here with so much food, fun and good humor. I’m going to make Applewood Smoked Chicken which usually works out pretty well! Read on for other recipes you may want to incorporate into your Father’s Day celebration.

Maple Sugar Strawberry Shortcake

What is more celebratory of the long awaited summer than strawberry shortcake? This shortcake is especially rich with heavy cream, but the light kneading creates delicious, light, flaky layers!

  • 2 pints ripe, well-rinsed strawberries
  • ½ cup maple sugar, or more to taste

Slice the strawberries and mash about 1/4. Mix with maple sugar and set aside.

  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons maple sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • Into a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, 3 tablespoons maple sugar, salt and baking powder. Add 3/4 cup of softened butter, and rub into dry ingredients as for pastry. Add 1 1/4 cups cream, and mix to a soft dough. Knead the dough for one minute on a lightly floured pastry board, then roll it out to about 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut an even number of rounds – 2 rounds per serving.
  • Place the rounds on a buttered baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, top each round with a little melted butter. Stack 2 rounds lightly together for baking.
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Whip 1 cup of cream until it is nearly stiff. Add 1 tablespoon of maple sugar, if desired. Serve by separating the rounds, spoon on some strawberries, top with the second round and add more strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy!

Maple Sugar Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberries and rhubarb pair beautifully with maple sugar. Click the picture for the recipe!

Maple Sugar Strawberry Sauce

This topping is delicious on just about anything. I eat it on yogurt and granola but could also imagine vanilla ice cream as a nice base. Click the photo for the recipe!

The Couching Lion in the distance.

Keeping and eye on things…..Archie seems to have plumped up quite a bit since we got him in April!

Living his best life on the green grasses of Vermont! Archie’s first 2 years were spent without a home. We are working hard to make up for early sadnesses!

As always, thank you for your support, encouragement, humor and interest in the maple sugar world. We are infinitely grateful to all of you who show up in our lives in different ways. Enjoy being with family and friends again and the beautiful months ahead.

XO Chaska and Matt

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Couching Lion Sugar Farm
Huntington, VT
(802) 434-5232
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