Winter into Spring

As the new season struggles to overcome the old, it’s worth remembering that ‘twas ever thus. Evidence of this can be found in the diaries of James Thomson, a New Kingston farmer who kept track of his family’s activities from 1838 to 1903, a remarkable 65 years, with only a few lapses. The original diaries are in the New York State Historical Association archives in Cooperstown, but George Hendricks photocopied some of the transcribed diaries, and has shared them with HSM.

Here are some entries from late winter, 1839:

March 9, Saturday. I drawed some wood. Father, Andrew and John (James’ brothers) have made some Sap troughs (in the days before wooden buckets were commonly made by coopers to catch sap from the maples, farmers would make collection troughs of poplar or ash.)

March 10. Sabbath. It froze very hard last night and was very cold through the day.

March 12. Was a fine warm day. We have been getting out flax and Andrew has made a sap neck yoke.

March 18. Has been warm with some rain, we have split rails. We have been up to the sugar Camp with troughs.

March 20. Cloudy with sleet and rain. John and father have been cutting wood at the camp.

March 23. Was a cool day, we built a arch (stone fireplace) for the sap boilers. The sap ran very fast in the afternoon.

March 25. The ground was white with snow and it did not melt all day. We have been drawing wood with both teames.

March 26. A fine day, but cool. We cleaned flax in the forenoon, and in the afternoon we tap(p)ed (maple trees)

March 27, Clear and warm, we tap(p)ed the rest of the Camp and boiled considerabel of Sap.

March 28. Very warm, I made some Sap troughs and tap(p)ed 16 more trees and built some wall.

March 29 I have been building wall. John has been boiling sap.

March 30 Clear and frosty

April, the first Month of Spring

April 1 Monday was a very warm day. We have got 125 pails of Sap.

April 2. We carried 54 pails of Sap in the morning.

April 4. Very warm and clear. We got 30 pails of Sap. Father has been to the mill and Andrew and me have been drawing stones.

April 5. The snow is I believe all in view gone. I have put off my woolen shirt and my fingers are very sore with handling stones.

April 7. Very warm in the morning, it rained a little and the wind changed to the north and became cold.

April 8. Cold in the morning, but the sun shone pleasant. I have begun to plow.

Because it was difficult to store maple syrup, farm families boiled it past the syrup stage, into sugar. James does not mention how much maple sugar was made in 1839, but the following year, on March 4, he wrote “Very warm all day. They sugared off 33 pounds of sugar.”

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