The Sugar Season: A Year in the Life of Maple Syrup, and One Family's Quest for the Sweetest Harvest

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Da Capo Press, Mar 4, 2014 - Nature - 304 pages
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A year in the life of one New England family as they work to preserve an ancient, lucrative, and threatened agricultural art--the sweetest harvest, maple syrup...

How has one of America's oldest agricultural crafts evolved from a quaint enterprise with "sugar parties" and the delicacy "sugar on snow" to a modern industry?

At a sugarhouse owned by maple syrup entrepreneur Bruce Bascom, 80,000 gallons of sap are processed daily during winter's end. In The Sugar Season, Douglas Whynott follows Bascom through one tumultuous season, taking us deep into the sugarbush, where sunlight and sap are intimately related and the sound of the taps gives the woods a rhythm and a ring. Along the way, he reveals the inner workings of the multimillion-dollar maple sugar industry. Make no mistake, it's big business--complete with a Maple Hall of Fame, a black market, a major syrup heist monitored by Homeland Security, a Canadian organization called The Federation, and a Global Strategic Reserve that's comparable to OPEC (fitting, since a barrel of maple syrup is worth more than a barrel of oil).

Whynott brings us to sugarhouses, were we learn the myriad subtle flavors of syrup and how it's assigned a grade. He examines the unusual biology of the maple tree that makes syrup possible and explores the maples'--and the industry's--chances for survival, highlighting a hot-button issue: how global warming is threatening our food supply. Experts predict that, by the end of this century, maple syrup production in the United States may suffer a drastic decline.

As buckets and wooden spouts give way to vacuum pumps and tubing, we see that even the best technology can't overcome warm nights in the middle of a season--and that only determined men like Bascom can continue to make a sweet like off of rugged land.
 

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The Sugar Season: A Year in the Life of Maple Syrup—and One Family's Quest for the Sweetest Harvest

User Review  - Kristi Chadwick - Book Verdict

Whynott (writing & literature, Emerson Coll.; A Unit of Water, a Unit of Time) follows Bascom Maple Farms president Bruce Bascom, his family, and his employees through the 2012 season at Bascom's ... Read full review

Contents

1 The Extent of the Shock Is Equivalent to the Rate of the Flow
1
2 The Public Still Thinks Were Doing It in the Mythic Way
13
3 Earliest Boil Ever
24
4 Straight At It and All Out
29
5 The First FullTime Sugarmaker
41
6 A Gallon Every 22 Seconds
54
7 A Sugarhouse Full of Sound and Everybody Coming Around
62
8 Short Sweet and of High Quality
81
13 The Forecast
157
14 Arent You Afraid Mr Bureau?
164
15 The Sugar Camps of St Aurelie
172
16 The Route of the Sugarmakers
192
17 Seasons of Change
203
18 Summer in March
222
19 Sugar on Snow
232
20 Most of Maine Is Downstairs
244

9 Here for the History
91
10 The Sugar Machine
111
11 You Need a Mountain
123
12 Why Be Competitors When You Can Be Cooperators
138
Epilogue
261
Postscript
273
Acknowledgments
275
Copyright

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About the author (2014)

Douglas Whynott is the critically acclaimed author of four nonfiction books. He has written articles and essays for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Discover, Smithsonian, Outside, Islands, Reader’s Digest, Yankee, and other publications. In True Stories, a history of literary journalism by Norman Sims published in 2008, Whynott is described as “an accomplished master of the literary journalism of everyday life.”

His book about migratory commercial beekeepers, Following the Bloom, was published in 1991 by Stackpole Books, in 1992 by Beacon Press in the Concord Library Series, and in 2004 in a Penguin/Tarcher edition with a new preface and epilogue. It was optioned for development as a feature film. Giant Bluefin, his book about the New England bluefin tuna fishery, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in hardcover in 1995 and North Point Press in paperback in 1996. It was a highly recommended selection in the New York Review of Books Reader’s Catalog and was reviewed widely, including a feature on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” A Unit of Water, A Unit of Time, a book about a boatyard in Maine owned by the son of E. B. White, was an independent bookstore bestseller, and was read in its entirety on an NPR books program at the affiliate in Ames, Iowa. It was published by Doubleday in 1999, by Washington Square Press in 2000. Australian rights were purchased by Hodder Headline. A Country Practice, his book about a veterinary clinic and a woman just out of vet school, was published by North Point Press in 2004. It was optioned for development as a television series by Creative Convergence, and selected as one of the best 10 nonfiction books of 2004 by New Hampshire Public Radio.

Whynott has taught writing and literature at the University of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College, and Columbia University. He is currently an associate professor of writing in the Writing, Literature and Publishing Program at Emerson College, where he served as director of the MFA program from 2002-2009. He received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach at the University of the Andes, Bogota, Colombia in the spring of 2013. In addition to his writing and teaching, he has been at different times a concert piano tuner, a dolphin trainer, a commercial fisherman, and a boogie-woogie pianist. Whynott is an eleventh generation Cape Codder. He lives in Langdon, a small town in southwestern New Hampshire.

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