When our family bought the Thomas Lamb/Ed Heselton House on the top of Bridgewater Hill in 1972 we got busy very quickly restoring it board by board. Putting in electricity, water system and furnace, replacing part of the cellar wall, and creating a new inside design was our main focus. Just before our first long cold winter we realized the large sugarhouse out back needed to be dealt with. It sat high where meadow met woodland, quite beyond repair, but filled with stories of early springtimes, the horse and wooden sleigh, hundreds of buckets, hard work, and the fragrance of sweet sap turning to syrup. Once proud and strong with smoke and steam pouring skyward it had become a hulking dilapidated worthless antiquity.
A large hole was prepared and the old sugarhouse pulled down into it and covered over with soil. All that was left were some magnificent stones used as the foundation and a few old boards.
And for years and years the empty and neglected space produced not an ounce of sap, only weeds and common wild flowers.
We had begun a small backyard sugaring hobby – simple and open to all the weather. Gradually we began to move our little operation closer and closer to that empty spot, not realizing we were finding the way back into history. Finally it was obvious we needed a new sugarhouse. In 2000 a call to Larry Derstine, who was just about to retire his hammer and measuring tape for good, answered yes, he would build us a new sugarhouse. And always good to his word, he did just that. We toiled setting up the inside necessities, and our cozy little place was ready. It soon filled all our sweet dreams and began stories of its own, sequels to the old ones. Stories of eager children and grandchildren, new passersby and old neighbors, “sap dogs” for lunch, rusting metal buckets that became plastic tubing, frozen sap lines, and finally of John’s last sugaring season. It was not easy, but he was proud and determined, and lovingly taught his California nine year old old grandson every step of the sugaring process from tree to syrup container.
For years we have referred to our life in the Thomas Lamb House as “ Our Turn on the Hill”, and perhaps our new sugarhouse is now also having its turn.
Thomas Lamb House