An excavator has been up on the mountain this past week. In just a few days Alec cleared at least a half acre, an amount of land that 100 years ago would have taken several people many weeks to clear.
We wanted to access an artesian spring, to clear shade from the gardens, and to open up one of the few flat areas on the property.
Trees were removed and sugar wood acquired: that wood pile is a great sight indeed. This morning I walked over to one of the bigger stumps. I always feel a pang of sadness when I see a stump this size. This maple was surely not one of the Old Giants, but a grand old tree never-the-less and one that has a story to tell.
I counted its rings. The rings are made from the alternate layering of large cells built in the spring and early summer (springwood) and the tight, dense cells built in the summer and early fall (summerwood). What we see as the actual rings are the tightly-packed summerwood cells.
There were 91 rings (+/- 5) meaning this sugar maple germinated in 1922. Warren Harding was President, the USSR formed, Benito Mussolini came to power, home brewing was illegal under prohibition laws, and King Tut’s tomb was found.
The story goes deeper though when you take into account the tap scars. This maple began being tapped around 1964 when it was just over 20 years old and about 8" in diameter. It was then tapped repeatedly for many years. The sunburst-like scars in the middle of the stump are old tap scars made back when the metal taps were big and clunky. It seems the the tree was tapped for about 7-8 consecutive years.
Then there is a second round of tap scars made around 1999-2000 when the tree was almost 80 years old. It was likely Bobo who did the tapping, the boiling, and the pouring in the 1960s. And maybe, too, in 99-00 although the secret is well-kept.
Nowadays, the taps we use are 5/16", plastic, and don’t leave such pronounced scarring. This is, of course, better for the tree’s health but quiets the history down considerably. As for the tree itself? Well, here it is in the woodpile.
Maybe this one won’t be burned in the arch in 2016. Maybe this one will milled and turned into countertops or benches for Bobo’s Mountain; the tap scars in perfect view for everyone to hear its story.