Good sap runs | Essex Column

On Saturday evening the Champlain Valley Film Society presents the best of this year’s Oscar nominated short films. The festival starts at 6 p.m. and includes both animated and live action films. There will be an intermission with snacks provided, and admission is $10. This is one of the more popular events on the film society’s calendar, and it all happens at the Whallonsburg Grange.

Local maple producers are finally getting good sap runs. The French family sugarhouse on Jersey Street attracts large crowds when they’re boiling, with visitors enjoying the warmth from the wood fire and sweet aromas wafting about. A byproduct of boiling maple sap is called sugar sand, a precipitate made up of crystallized sugars and calcium malate which is not harmful but has to be filtered out to avoid grittiness in the syrup. In addition to maples, syrup can be made from birch sap. Birches start their sap flow about the time maples are ending theirs, although the sap is less sugary and the flow is of shorter duration. However, birch syrup sells for about $80 a quart.

Now that the snow is finally leaving, I’ve noticed some familiar smells from the earth. The most prominent one right now is a chicken coop-like odor is called mephitis.It’s commonly described as a pestilential exhalation or stench from the ground and it’s only noticeable in early spring. Another familiar smell is that of freshly spaded earth, known as geosmin. Goesmin is produced by soil bacteria breaking down and releasing odors. People who claim to smell rain coming are not crazy, they’re just good at detecting ozone, which is also the pleasant smell that clothing dried outdoors carries. After a rain, especially a rain after a dry spell, the air is sweet with petrichor, which is from plant oils and bacteria that are physically released and scattered in the air by rain drops.

Looking ahead, the Essex Community Church will offer a concert of gospel music provided by a choir from Plattsburgh State. This will be at the church on Friday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. Further ahead, on May 3 the Champlain Area Trail Society is sponsoring a hike from Westport to Essex. There will be a sag wagon for those who grow weary, and a block party with a live band at the end of the hike. Check out the CATS website for more information.

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