Wake Robin seniors make maple syrup

Sugaring season is big at the campus and is a favorite of many residents.
Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 8:15 AM EDT
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SHELBURNE, Vt. (WCAX) - For the 28th year in a row, sugaring is still happening this year at the Wake Robin retirement community in Shelburne.

Wake Robin residents say this season is one of their favorites and even COVID-19 couldn’t stop them from making sure they keep their sweet sugaring tradition alive.

“Anytime you can make it is good. No, don’t fret about it being a bad year,” said John Blackmer, who has been sugaring at Wake Robin for seven years and says sugaring is in the veins. “People say well when are you going to tap, it’s a stirring in the blood.”

It’s the community’s 28th year tapping trees, but none quite so special as this one after a year of being apart. Blackmer says residents found their work reunion extra sweet. “They are so glad to get out, get out in the woods and be together,” he said.

Dozens of residents get outdoors to participate in the sugaring operation year-round, everything from chopping wood to collecting sap. “It gets in your blood,” said Robert Chutter, a resident who volunteers.

The two men combined have decades worth of experience under their belts and are constantly working on ways to make their operation better. “That’s the reason we do it,” said Chutter.

While he was eager to show off the product, he says the real credit goes to those helping that he was excited to see again. The volunteers’ experience ranges from generations of sugarmaking like him, to those who don’t know what a tap is -- are all invited. “Gosh, the first Sunday we had a gathering, we probably had 35 people. You could see the woods moving almost,” said Chutter.

Blackmer says from their first event, resident volunteers were all in. “We’re so glad to get out. Absolutely, get out in the woods and be together. And it’s woefully safe during COVID, you are spread out in the woods outside, and no it was a particularly fine time to be doing something that’s communal,” said Blackmer.

And as they get ready to close up shop on year 28, they look forward to the work until year 29. “It is what it is but just being able to do that get out and get out, is wonderful,” said Blackmer.

They say they will keep their operation running, like any sugarmaker, right until the trees start budding.

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