Saturday, March 21, 2009

Greetings from South Bend, Indiana

Greetings from beautiful and scenic South Bend, Indiana; I'm here for the Great Lakes American Studies Association annual conference and have been on campus all day. Here are some images of campus icons: Notre Dame is a gorgeous, self-contained campus; however, South Bend has nothing to offer. For example, when I and my traveling companions motored into town, we all had a hankerin' for some good local food. We drove around the downtown area for an thirty minutes and finally decided to eat at South Bend's favorite local dive, Burger King. This "town" has nothing to offer in the way of food.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tradition Dripping from the Trees

Notes from the 2009 Seneca County Maple Festival:
Snavely's Sugar Shack stands in the same maple woods the Snavely family has tapped for seven generations. The original sugar camp was built in 1864 by Paul Snavely's great-great grandfather, Henry Bowerman, and stood until it was replaced in 1982. Today, the sugar shack is located on the site of the original camp on the north side of this twenty-acre woods.

Storms the night before, and the day of, the 2009 Seneca County Maple Fest brought more than two inches of rain. This is the "festival shuttle" taking people back to the woods. The water was between 12 and 18 inches deep on the crushed-stone road back to the camp. In years past, we enjoyed the walk to the woods; this year, no one walked or swam. Once there, festival patrons have the option of touring the camp and the woods, or heading straight to a hot breakfast of pancakes, locally-made sausage, vanilla ice cream, and all the fresh Snavely maple syrup you care to use.
We headed directly to Jenny Greer's mobile catering booth. Greer and her family have been participating in the festival since it started in 1992. Breakfast:

How often does breakfast come with an ice cream course? Not often enough! Especially when it's from Toft's and there's hot, fresh, pure maple syrup--straight from the evaporator--to pour on it.
Approximately 300 galvanized metal buckets hang from metal spiles (taps) inserted about waist high into the mature maple trees in Snavely’s twenty-acre woods, with an additional 1000 taps, all on buckets, in eight surrounding woods within two miles of their maple camp. Usually, this "creek" is dry:

I love my EB Tek gortex jacket, but I still needed my La Crosse rubber barn boots, Wellingtons for the Brits, and an umbrella to get these shots. Holding an umbrella while taking photos is not the easiest thing to do, but the rain really brightened the colors:
This is a collection of vintage spiles hanging on the inside wall of the sugar shack:
When the sap buckets are nearly full, they are emptied into 150-gallon gathering tanks pulled behind four-wheelers.
The sap is then poured into one of the four 300 gallon stainless steel tanks outside the the sugar shack, and leaves are filtered out. 180 gallons of maple sap is siphoned from a tank, to the evaporating equipment inside the shack.
Snavely's upgraded from a wood-fired evaporator to an oil-fired evaporator for the 2002 season. At the same time they completely refurbished the attached woodshed and converted it into a kitchen with a wood-burning stove for heat. Sugar maple sap only contains about 2 to 2.5 percent sugar, it takes 2.5 to 3 gallons of heating oil to reduce about 40 to 45 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Evelyn Snavely, in the cream-colored sweatshirt, explains the process to festival patrons:
The 180 gallons of sap is moved through 150 feet of heated copper tubing, cooking the raw sap down. The cooked sap is pumped into the evaporating section and is cooked until it reaches a temperature of 217.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Paul Snavely explaining that the temperature determining the final product varies depending on the barometric pressure. Once the correct temperature is reached, an alarm sounds and a red light turns on, indicating the syrup is ready to be dispensed. An automatic valve opens and allows the syrup to drain into a bucket at which time it is double-checked with a hydrometer to make sure the syrup has reached it desired temperature and density. If the syrup does not reach 32 on the hydrometer then the unfinished syrup is poured back into the evaporator and reprocessed until it meets all requirements for bottling. Paul Snavely with Emily and Jessica: When the syrup has reached the appropriate temperature and meets the other required measurements, it is then poured into the bottling container, but not before the syrup is poured through a fine cloth that separates the sugar sand and the syrup. After the sugar sand and syrup are separated the syrup is ready to be bottled into gallons, half-gallons, quarts, pints, half-pints and 3.5oz bottles. The syrup has to be at 180 degrees Fahrenheit, in order for the bottles to seal properly. The original 180 gallons of sap, when boiled and evaporated down, will make 3 ½ gallons of Ohio Maple Syrup.

The President who Rolled Eggs

Rutherford Birchard Hayes - 19th President of the United States
4 October 1822 - 17 January 1893

RBH lived in this Spiegel Grove home on and off from 1863 to 1880 and it served as his primary, post-presidency, residence from 1880 until his death in 1893. Hayes is the forgotten president who started the annual Easter egg roll on The White House South Lawn in 1878. A similar tradition occurs each Easter at the Hayes Home:
Our route to the Seneca County Maple Festival in Republic, Ohio took us down Hayes Avenue, past the nation's first presidential library: The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center at Spiegel Grove in Fremont, Ohio. On the day I took these photos, Northwest Ohio had already received well-over an inch of rain overnight, and the rain continued to pour. For this reason, these photos appear a bit grainy, but they aren't grainy, they're rainy. Notice the unique, ornamental gates in front of the center, they may seem familiar. They are the original White House gates; a souvenir of Hayes's tenure:

Of Wheat and Wealth - A Note from Republic

Henry Morrison Flagler
2 January 1830 - 20 May 1930

In 1844, fourteen-year old Henry Flagler left upstate New York and went to live with his mother’s relatives who owned and operated a general store in the tiny Seneca County, Ohio, village of Republic. Once there, Flagler took a job with his uncle, Steven V. Harkness, working for five-dollars a month, which included his board at the general store where, “he slept under the counter, covering himself with wrapping paper” (Havighurst 109-10).
A Gilded-Age Robber Baron Slept Here

While in Republic, Flagler began buying wheat from Republic farmers to sell to the millers in Milan, Ohio. Occasionally, he would sell Republic wheat through a young commission merchant in Cleveland, named John D. Rockefeller. When Rockefeller learned of the discovery of petroleum at Oil Creek, Pennsylvania, it was Flagler who persuaded his uncle, Steven V. Harkness, to use the proceeds from his business operations in Northwest Ohio to silently back a new industry that would change the economic landscape of the world: oil.
In 1867, Flagler signed on as a partner with Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews in what would eventually become the Standard Oil Corporation, an enterprise that would make Harkness, Flagler, Andrews, and Rockefeller wealthy (Chandler 1986). Flagler took his wealth and went on to build the Florida East Coast Railroad, and to develop the Florida resort towns of Palm Beach and Miami.

Sugar in the Woods

Photographic Essay: The 2009 Seneca County Maple Festival
Snavely's Sugar Shack, Republic, Ohio.
Vintage maple syrup cans at Snavely's Sugar Shack, Republic, Ohio:
Today's line of pure maple syrup containers:
The Festival is as much of a Snavely family reunion as it is an opportunity to invite the public into the sugar bush and sugar camp:
Ilene Fruth and one of the many Snavely grandchildren, Renee, making maple sugar. An entire galon of pure maple syrup is cooked down to a granular consistency, beaten in a Kitchen Aid, then sifted. Yields one pound of pure maple sugar:
Renee Snavely and David Fruth sift the hot maple sugar while Ilene Fruth prepares to pour out maple candies:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A little break

Of late, I've been putting in longer hours than usual, trying to get the dissertation written. It's still a work in progress; however, it is taking it's final shape. I've taken one day off since the beginning of Spring Semester, and if you are wondering, I was in my office yesterday (Saturday) from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, took in a screening of Slumdog Millionaire (a brilliant, gorgeous, thought-provoking film), was back in my office from 6:45 to 11:00 PM. It's now Sunday, and I let myself sleep in until 7:00 AM, instead of the usual 6:45; drug myself out, and have been here in my office for a couple of hours now. I need a break. Fortunately for me, the Seneca County Maple Festival is scheduled for next Sunday at Paul Snavely's Sugar Shack in Republic, Ohio, and I'm going.

Here's an image of the heated tents surrounding the sugaring operation during the 2007 festival. The billows of steam are from the evaporation of maple sap into maple syrup--the key ingredient of the festival. There is a modest admission fee to the festival; but, the fee includes hot cakes, sausage, hot beverage of your choice, a scoop of Toft's vanilla ice cream and all the fresh, pure maple syrup one cares to consume. Additionally, David and Ilene Fruth will be making maple popcorn, maple sugar, and maple candy--all for sale. I plan on bringing home a year-supply of maple syrup.