It was -5 in the hills above Montgomery, Vermont, the kind of cold that frosts your eyelashes and freezes your nostrils. Three of us stride through the sun and snow: my best friend Hayley, a pediatric nurse; her father, Harvey; and me. Mostly, we walk quietly. Hayley watches the dogs, calling them close when they stray. I pay attention to the light and its patterns, my camera held close. Harvey, the quietest, intent on the transparent tubing that crisscrosses between the trees, a suspended and complex network that will carry sap in six weeks' time.
Harvey is a man of few, but well-timed words. I imagine that his inner world is like the maple forest behind his home: resourceful, complicated, rooted- quietly waiting for the right moment to provide.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
It’s not something I think about. I guess working in the woods, the sugar woods, surveying, family, friends.
WHAT DOES SURVEYING MEAN TO YOU?
It’s a livelihood. It’s how I make my living, how I make my money. It’s like any job; there are pros and cons to it. I get to be my own boss, I get to make my own hours, I like working outside and I like working on the computer. I don’t like chasing money, a lot of the business aspects I don’t care for. The technology has changed since I started. We do more with less now. We’ve taken a lot of the drudgery out of it. Everything used to be measured with steel tape, now we do electronic measurements with GPS. All the calculations used to be done longhand, which was very tedious. All the drafting was done by hand, now it’s all computerized. We pack more information into the surveys now; surveys used to be simpler.
WHAT DOES SUGARING MEAN TO YOU?
That, I love to do. I like to make money at if I can- we don’t always do that, but I would be doing it anyways. I grew up around it. I’ve been sugaring all my life. My parents didn’t give me any formal teaching, I was just around it, I just picked it up.
TELL ME ABOUT A MEMORY FROM SUGARING.
I can remember that when I was a little kid, the men gathering the horses and what a lot of work it was then. Sugaring has changed a lot; it used to require a lot of work. There was a lot of physical labor involved. You needed a lot of men for gathering. The technology has changed; you can do quite a bit with less labor. The tubing is one of the big changes, and the way we boil the sap. The use of reverse osmosis has reduced the amount of boiling and labor. We used to go to every tree and gather the sap every time it ran; it was a tremendous amount of labor.
YOU GREW UP AND STILL LIVE IN VERMONT. WHAT DOES VERMONT MEAN TO YOU?
Well, you have a sense of history- the people and the place. I mean, it’s the only way I’ve lived so I don’t have any other frame of reference. I love Vermont, it’s a great state. It’s beautiful– it’s the place to live. We live close to the border with Canada. The border used to be more relaxed. When I would go through the border with my father, he used to just wave and go through. He would stop if he wanted to, but mainly just to chat. Now, you stop. They search your car and ask you a lot of questions. But I don’t do any work across the border. I’m only licensed in Vermont. I haven’t been over for quite a while.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
I’m trying to make a living, and get by like everybody else.
Check out Harvey's website: