Sugar

On my list of projects is to photograph my maple grove through all four season.  I also have on my list to photograph my honey bees.  Then it hit me, maybe this is one project and sugar is the common theme. Our maple trees and our honey bees are just amazing in so many ways.

First the trees, we have quite a few sugar maples, but 3 of them are somewhere in the range of 200 years old.  Imagine the stories they could tell.  For any of you who have visited my studio, you know I live in a hollow.  Our hollow must have been carved out by a glacier some tens of thousands of year ago.  Now we have about .5 mile of flat ground sandwiched by two hill and a lovely year round brook in the middle.

I don't know how those maple saplings made it way back, but they now tower about 150 feet in the air.  In the late winter, when it is freezing over night, but above freezing during the day, the deep tap root draws sugar in the form of sap up from the ground, through the trunk and into it's branches.  That is when we tap the trees and steal some of their sweet sap and spend many cold nights boiling it down to delicious syrup.  The trees don't mind the taps, I imagine they may mind gravity more and they pull hundreds of gallons of sap up hundreds of feet.  As soon as the weather is consistently above freezing, the sap stops running.  And the trees convert that sugar, slowly into leaves.  In the Spring, the leaves open with a burst of green.  It's like it happens overnight.  When Summer comes to an end, the leaves turn bight orange, then brown and then blanket the ground.  The quantity of leaves is rather astonishing and a clever way to self mulch and return that sugar to the earth.  So that, in a nut shell is the story I hope to tell over the next 12 or so months.

And then there are the bees.  Right now, it is about 15 degrees out (not bad for Feb.), but inside our little uninsulated, bee hives it is about 80 degrees.  The bees gather together in a cluster, with the queen in the center, they detach their wings and use the same muscles they use to fly...to shiver.  Their shivering keeps the hive warm enough for them to survive.  That is why they gather all that pollen and nectar all summer long, literally working themselves to death, so the hive can survive the long cold winter.  Again it's all about the sugar.

Here are the very first few working images of this long-form story.

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