Chilly temps means maple sugaring season off to slow start

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  • Andrew Mattiace drills a hole in a tree in his backyard to collect sap for his syrup operation at his Bow home on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Andrew Mattiace taps a tree in his back yard to collect sap for his syruping operation at his Bow home on Saturday, March 2, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Andrew Mattiace walks under the sap lines in the back yard of his Bow home on Saturday, March 2, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Andrew Mattiace strings a sap line for a tree in his back yard to collect sap for his syruping operation at his Bow home on Saturday, March 2, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Andrew Mattiace drills a hole in a tree in his back yard to collect sap for his syruping operation at his Bow home on Saturday, March 2, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Andrew Mattiace opens up the converted oil tank he created for the burner of his evaportation process for sap in the back of his Bow home on Saturday, March 2, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Andrew Mattiace checks on the evaporation process for a custom syrup operation at his Bow home on Saturday, March 2, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Andrew Mattiace pours out some sap as he boils syrup.

  • Gov. Chris Sununu and his 4-year-old son Leo tap a tree at Maple Ridge Sugar House in Loudon on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Andrew Mattiace hammers in a hole in a tree in his back yard to collect sap for his syruping operation at his Bow home on Saturday, March 2, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/3/2019 5:12:15 PM

It’s time to tap the trees in many parts of North America, including here in New Hampshire as maple sugar season kicks off.

Gov. Chris Sununu will signal the start of New Hampshire Maple Month with a visit Intervale Farm Pancake House in Henniker on Monday, where he will continue a nearly 50-year tradition of Granite State governors tapping a maple tree.

Many maple syrup harvesters in the state have already started tapping their trees. The harvest depends on the weather, relying on cold nights and warm days so pressure can build within the tree and push sap out through its taps.

A couple of warm days in February led to some production, but an otherwise chilly season has slowed the output down in recent weeks.

Andrew Mattiace in Bow, now in his second year as a maple syrup harvester, boiled down a pot of maple sugar in his driveway Saturday morning. Mattiace, an engineer and 2001 graduate of Bow High School, typically uses his outdoor evaporator that he built using a converted oil tank, but he’s waiting for a heavier haul of sap to fill the buckets hanging from his trees. He pulled just 20 gallons this weekend, and it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Mattiace has 230 taps total between his property and a neighbor’s across the street that he was given permission to tap, a big jump from the 80 taps he operated last year. He said the cold temperatures have delayed production and hopes that changes soon.

“I’m thinking that I can do a boil Wednesday and then we’re going to have another stretch of cold, but I’m hopeful that might be the last freeze,” he said.

Over at Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook, Tim Bassett said they tapped their trees in early February when temperatures climbed to the 50s. Bassett expects more to come later in the season, and the farm will be open for Maple Sugar Weekend, which runs March 23-24 at sugar houses across the state.

Dean Wilber at Mapletree Farm in Concord has been harvesting maple sugar for 71 years and feels the prime season will come in another week or 10 days.

“This may sound ridiculous but when I left my house this morning I thought, ‘Yeah, it’s getting to that time,’ ” Wilber said Friday. “You can tell by what the weather is where the season’s going. Almost like you can smell it.”

In Henniker, the governor’s annual tree-tapping will open the beginning of a month-long celebration of the state’s long tradition of producing maple sugar.

This year’s event is sweetened up with special kick: the trees that Sununu will tap were planted as saplings in 1999 by students from John Stark Regional High School in Weare. Twenty years later, the trees are ready to be tapped, and some of those JSRHS graduates are expected to be there. 

Sununu tends to be a little earlier to tap the ceremonial maple tree than his predecessor, Democrat Maggie Hassan. 

Last year, Sununu tapped a tree in Loudon on Feb. 28.

In 2016, Hassan tapped a tree at Treat’s Sugarhouse in Bow on March 14, and in 2014, she was loading logs into the evaporator at the Maple Guys in Lyndeborough on March 11.

Many sugar houses across the state celebrate maple month by welcoming the public to tour their facilities and try samples. For a list of sugar houses and their events, visit nhmapleproducers.com/maple-month

 

(Jonathan Van Fleet contributed to this report. Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)




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