When he wrote this account, Noel Perrin (1927-2004) was an English professor at Dartmouth. He also owned a Vermont farm, and the property included stands of sugar maples. It was only natural that he would be interested in setting up a small sugaring operation in order to process his own maple syrup. After all, that's what folks do, up here in New England.
Being an admirer of Henry David Thoreau, Perrin sets out to do something special: he builds his sugar house as a replica of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond. The first third of "Amateur Sugar Maker" thus chronicles the building of the structure. Along the way, Perrin continually compares his expenses, the costs of materials and other statistics (in 1969) to Thoreau's own spreadsheet of 1845, well publicized in "Walden." What fun!
But then Perrin has to acquire the proper sugaring equipment (after doing some research to discover exactly what he needs in the first place, of course). If he thought building the house was a tough task, he discovers that he's in for even more than he bargained for when he sets off to find buckets, a cask, and an evaporator small enough to fit into the space, since he unwittingly confined himself when he built such a tiny barn. His goal (in frugal N.E. fashion) is to find good used equipment instead of buying anything new. Being diligent about watching newspaper ads and hearing local tales puts him on the proper trails. Eventually his approach pays off, and he assembles and tests the process. The last part of the book is therefore spent emptying buckets and making a few bottles of syrup for sale in New York City.
This paperback edition includes a postscript written in 1982, after Perrin and his family had been sugaring for 15 years. In the interim, he strung up tubing so that the sap ran directly to the sugar house, if it didn't freeze along the way. So this thin volume provides basic tips for other "amateur sugar makers" out there. It probably will also result in a few nods and guffaws from those hardy New Englanders who already have successful operations in place. Noel Perrin's narrative style is factual and funny all at once. I may need to read some of his other books about rural living. I'm saddened to learn that Perrin is no longer with us.