Sunday, February 19, 2012

News 8 WTNH: Maple syrup season starts at Woodbury Farm

Maple syrup season starts at Woodbury farm

Updated: Saturday, 18 Feb 2012, 12:50 PM EST
Published : Saturday, 18 Feb 2012, 12:50 PM EST
QUANNAH LEONARD,Republican-American of Waterbury
WOODBURY, Conn. (AP) - Drip, drip and drip.

That was the sound of sap flowing into a white plastic bucket hanging from a sugar maple tree at Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust on a recent morning. The rhythmic dripping into the plastic or metal buckets on the trees could have been mini drums beating an old, favorite song.

"It's a great sound," said volunteer Guy Gabrielson, who carried more buckets to a group of three surrounding a sugar maple tree. "This is an excellent day."

Tiny snowflakes flew as the volunteers set out to participate in the Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust's Tapping Day on Feb. 11 — the official kickoff to the 2012 maple season. About 35 volunteers participated, and around 200 trees were tapped for their sap.

Families stuck close to Flanders at its South Field, an enclosed area, to tap about 100 trees, and the seasoned tappers visited about 100 trees downtown that local owners donated to tap. Volunteers arrived promptly at 9:30 a.m., with gloves, a hammer and a drill in hand.

Some had never tapped a tree before, while others came for their third season or more. The newbies didn't have to worry, though.

Harry Gerowe, a volunteer and sugar maker, led a quick demonstration in the process with a sugar maple tree not far from the Sugar House, where the maple syrup is made.

"This is a maple tree," Gerowe announced, patting his hand on the tree. "And that's not."

He nodded to a pine tree close by. He said he knows for sure what a maple tree looks like from the old holes drilled for sap. He said a new hole should be made about a fist away from the old one, and at a slant for the sap to flow.

First-time tappers, Joie Slossar, 13, and Sarah Harris, 12, both of Woodbury, volunteered to help with the first tap. Slossar drilled the hole at a 10-degree angle. Immediately the sap started to flow out.

Harris used a hammer to position a tap, or stile, into the tree. Then a bucket was hung underneath with a lid secured over it.

Gerowe paused and said, "If you listen quietly, you can hear it drip."

The drumming started.

At the start of the season, typically in mid-February, the sugar content is about 4 percent and as it progresses it lowers to 2 percent, he said. It flows clear, but once the sap is collected it is brought to the center's Sugar House, where they put it into an evaporator to boil it, bringing it to a sugar content of 66 percent.

Gerowe said it gets that brown color from the caramelization of the sugar from boiling.

Cold nights below freezing and warm days at 40 degrees are best for tapping, he said. As a tree warms up from the sun, the pressure increases and pushes the sap out. Buckets are mostly put on the south side of the tree to catch the sun's warmth, but this year they will put some on the colder side, too, to see if they can extend the season.

It will take a day or a day and a half for the buckets to fill, he said. The center sends out a crew of volunteers to collect the buckets every other day, and it is always looking for more volunteers to help with that.

Slossar worked along side her grandfather, Ed Keplinger, of Woodbury, and her friend, Harris. All three were newbies to the process.

"I am loving it," Harris said.

The Sugar House will be open for residents to learn about maple syrup on March 3, 4, 10 and 11. Flanders will have its Maple Celebration on March 17.

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