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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Beacon Bits -- Spring Thaw

It's been one of the longest and coldest winters I can ever remember. From the first snow that fell the day before Thanksgiving to the Alberta Clipper on this last day of March, it seems perplexing that the spring holidays are already upon us and I just now realized that I never posted a blog during the month of February! No -- my fingers didn't freeze -- but I did do some nesting as I prepared for a wonderful trip to South Africa where it was still summer. 

Even though there was enough to do in Beacon during the long winter, the spring thaw heralds a renewed attitude about participating in community life. You can tell that everyone is ready to be more active as you walk along Main Street; you see more people lingering to chat while out and about running errands. While the true portend of spring in Beacon is the re-opening of Zora Dora, the chill in the air stirred my desire to soak up the sunlight and break out of town, so I opted to go to the open house held at Crown Maple at Madava Farms in Dover Plains. 

Traveling into the northeastern parts of Dutchess county is something that is easier to do when embarking from Beacon, a true gateway to the Hudson Valley. It was a long drive on a Sunday afternoon, but the time investment was profitable with very little traffic and rewarding sightings of blue sky and melting snow in the open fields and woods along the county roads dotted with horse farms. 
Driving through the gates and up the unpaved road was easy without the fresh snow and ice cover that I missed by only one day. At the end of the road, one approaches the large, modern building, also known as the sugar house, home to the producers of the best organic maple syrup stocked on the shelves of local grocers. 
The open house/festival included a tour and explanation about the sugaring process from tapping the trees to the vaporization and distillation of the sap into the syrup. Of note was the delay in the season this year, which usually begins in February when the below freezing nights turn into above freezing days; this year the season began on March 1st and might run through early April if the diurnal variations in temperature continue.

There were free samples of maple cotton candy and syrup coated popcorn and a chance to compare the amber, dark and very dark syrups in the tasting room. The color changes from light to dark with the length of the season. I learned that the more expensive golden color syrup is associated with its limited run. But I also realized that the dark syrup has a complex and intense flavor that may be preferable for cooking or baking.

Picnic tables are placed in the open floor plan of the factory-showroom where visitors can sit and enjoy the food offering from the cafe, all of which have a touch of Crown Maple syrup.
Other than this open house weekend, there are other special events and the 800-acre farm is open to visitors on most weekends (11am to 5pm) for guided tours, use of the trails, and even trout fishing on the property. It's well worth a look-see and the excursion is quite do-able within 1/2 day from Beacon and back.

Food for thought:  Spring is a season when the simple things can bring about a sense of awe. The lengthening days arouse nature to give birth in all of its ways. The season offers some of the best opportunities for getting close to the earth, the mountains, and the river throughout the valley. And in so doing, awe, a powerful emotion, is repeatedly evoked. Recent research suggests that awe slows down the subjective experience of time. Awe gives us the present moment. Awe creates a greater sense of satisfaction. Awe allows us to be patient and kind. Awe can influence our decisions. This enhanced well-being and sense of awe can be facilitated by exploring the natural and majestic environment in Beacon's backyard for the next few months as spring unfolds like the soon-to-be flowering bulbs and trees. Make this an awe-inspiring spring; do something awe-some!  It's guaranteed you will feel wonder-ful!

Awesome Maple Glaze
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup
4 tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbs. heavy cream

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