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    Saturday, April 08, 2006

    Sweet Monks


    The monks also reserve a portion of the syrup for their own consumption.

    "We love it," said Brother John, who likes to see the finished product in jugs lined up and ready to go to the table or to the shop.

    Brother Augustine helps run the oil-fired evaporator in the sugar house attached to a large barn just up the road from the priory. What he likes best about working in the sugaring operation is the sweet smell from the sugar house as sap boils down to syrup and steam rolls up and out through a vent in the roof.

    But there's a special benefit to working in the operation, the two monks agreed with a smile: the taste test. "You have to be professional tasters in this business," said Brother John with a sparkle in his eye.

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    The 13 monks at the priory bottle syrup in pint and half-pint plastic jugs with their own label. The syrup sells in their gift shop alongside their music: "Listen," "Wherever You Go," "Spirit Alive," "Go Up to the Mountain" and "So Full of Deep Joy."

    They own about 35 acres of sugar bush over three sites and alternate sugar bushes to allow the trees to rest for a few years between tappings.

    "We try to flow with nature rather than try to conquer it," said Benedictine Brother John Hammond. "It's not to squeeze as much out of it as we can but to encourage it to nourish us."

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