Super Senior: Butch Greaves

Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 6:24 PM EDT
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WALDEN, Vt. (WCAX) - Winter is taking its sweet time leaving the Northeast Kingdom, but there is one sure sign of spring -- the sap is starting to run on Butch Greaves’ 188 acres in Walden.

“When the sap is running, it’s pretty much a full-time job,” Greaves said. He gets help from his sons, Matt and Paul. “They do a lot, but they don’t do it all.”

Greaves likes to speak his mind, but with age, the 79-year-old admits he has mellowed. “I am much more so now than I used to be.

Reporter Joe Carroll: What changed?

Butch Greaves: Oh, I just figured out I’m not turning the world.

His world is small -- never having lived more than a handful of miles from the Walsen homestead. Growing up on a dairy farm, Greaves has always worked with his hands. “If I’m not busy, I get anxious,” he said.

He started sugaring just 15 years ago with his now ex-wife. “I’m probably kind of a bad catch. I’ve been married twice,” Greaves said. They collect the sap with tubes and heat the evaporator with oil. Slowly, the room is enveloped in steam, becoming a sugary-smelling sauna. They hope to make 1,200 gallons. Most of it will be sold at their retail shop.

As the room heats up, the mist goes away. And for visitors who would like to see a ‘Norman Rockwell’ style sugarhouse? “They can come right over and help us cut the wood and get the buckets gathered and we’ll go right back to it,” Greaves said. “If I had 50 buckets out, I might play with it. But I wouldn’t be sugaring 6,500 taps with buckets and wood.:

Reporter Joe Carroll: What do you think of my coat, do I fit in?

Butch Greaves: Yeah, you fit right in. ...You can come back and help us every weekend if you like.

Reporter Joe Carroll: I don’t think so. That’s too much work.

The sap boils down to a tasty syrup -- about 40 gallons are needed to make just one gallon of the liquid gold. “The smell and the taste are the best things about sugaring, Greaves said. “I got no intentions but doing anything but staying out, doing what I am until I can’t get up,” Greaves said.

A Super Senior carrying on a Vermont tradition.