Friday, March 4, 2011

Maple Sugaring ~ Not for sissies, but, oh, so sweet

Spring approaches in the Adirondacks, but no one is slathering on the sun block or slipping into shorts just yet. Maple producers around Thurman recently have shared stories of wallowing on snow shoes through fluffy drifts in cut-to-the bone winds in order to set taps for this year's sugaring season. Those who use plastic tubing to deliver sap to the collection vats have been out running new lines, repairing old ones, and making sure all is ready for the running of the sap. The weather toys with them, flitting playfully above freezing for a couple of days, then dropping twenty degrees and dumping more snow -- sometimes the kind of snow that can snap tree limbs, limbs that then fall on newly strung sap lines. Once the sap begins to flow in earnest, the boiling will begin. In a good season the task on a given day can go on for hours on end. Tales are told of sugarmakers who literally fall asleep on their feet beside their evaporators, steam crusting hair and eyebrows with crystals of sugar.

Sugaring is tough work, but those I know who engage in it, love it. "I think most sugarmakers are a little bit insane," observed Dave DeLozier, publisher of Ecolocal Living magazine, when I recently submitted an article I'd written about Toad Hill Maple Farm's new sugarhouse. Most sugarmakers I know would agree, readily admitting that the amount of work they do, the need for blind trust in weather known to be fickle, and the expense of equipment and supplies all set them up for failure. A compulsion drives them out into the sugarbush each February and March anyhow.

This year, as in years past, Thurman's maple producers, along with a local sawmill, will roll out the carpet for visitors each of the last three weekends in March. It begins with Thurman Maple Weekend, March 12 and 13, when Valley Road Maple opens at 9 a.m. for pancakes, and the other three sites open at 10 to offer tours and demonstrations. That first Saturday is crowned by the annual Maple Sugar Party, a buffet supper to raise money to fight cancer. Hod Ovitt and the Warren County Ramblers will be on tap to make the occasion festive, and a dessert of pure Thurman maple jack wax will leave no sweet tooth unsatisfied.

The breakfasts, tours and demonstrations will continue on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of March, as Thurman producers participate in New York State Maple Weekends. For details on the event, how to find Thurman and navigate to all sites, please visit the Thurman Maple Weekends web page. You'll enjoy attending this event. If you are from out of the area, check out our local B&Bs on Thurman's web site,, and spend a leisurely weekend in the Adirondacks.

Publicity for Thurman's maple events is made possible, in part, by use of Warren County Occupancy Tax funds, granted by the Town of Thurman.