Some up, some down at end maple season
As the Maple season comes to a close at Rathbun’s Maple Sugar House the crew on Hatch Hill Road can look back on a successful year, not one for the record books but quite nice by comparison.
Matt Rathbun said the early work in the woods paid off this year as the sugar house was on its way to a great year.
“We’ve been doing it out here for 50 years and this is in the top 10,” Rathbun said. At the time, with operation not quite done for the year, he felt confident in a solid season’s yield. “This one’s right up there; I’m happy with it,” Rathbun said.
After several years in a row when the season ended prematurely or never really got started, Rathbun said this season was the first one in about 15 years where he’s really been able to harvest a good crop.
“We’ve made twice as much as we did last year,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of other producers like Vern Scribner over in Whitehall and some guys from downstate they made quite a bit too,” Rathbun said.
Over the border in Whitehall Vernon Scribner at Scribner’s Maple had what he called an average year.
“It was an average season. I wouldn’t say it was a super season, but it was a long ways from a poor season,” Scribner said.
“I had a little over 1,100 gallons as compared to 700 gallons – a real good jump from last year,” he said. Not one for the record books but solid by most any measure.
“In the past, I’ve had anywhere from 1,300 to 1,400 gallons in a season, so I’m right in between there,” Scribner said.
Mike Grottoli might have been one of the only people in the area hoping for freezing cold nights recently.
Working out at the family sugar shack in Middle Granville, Grottoli’s Maple, on a recent afternoon he said he could use some more time of good running sap before the end of the season comes about.
Some taps just didn’t get out as he hurried to ready his operation for welcoming dignitaries including Assemblyman Tony Jordan and Senator Betty Little for the ceremonial first tapping for the two New York State Maple Weekends.
Warmer weather and nature are working to bring an end to the season a little too soon for Grottoli’s tastes.
This late in the season he faces the possibility of “buddy” syrup as the maple trees begin to produce the buds that will eventually become leaves, Grottoli said.
The budding affects the flavor of the syrup by affecting the flavor of the sap.
The faintest tinge already colors some of the trees closer to the road where the snow isn’t so deep, he said.
“You look over there,” he said pointing out across Route 22 into a neighbor’s back yard, “You can really see it there.”
From a distance it was not clear exactly what type of tree it was, possibly Willow, but one thing was perfectly clear – the blush of green on the branches.
Further back into the sugar bush, however snow remains supreme.
“This could be the first time I can remember when we’ll be using snowshoes to take down the equipment,” Rathbun said.
Earlier in the season Rathbun and others took to the woods to repair vacuum lines, tap trees and set out new tap lines, mostly on snowshoes to stay on top of several feet of snow.
Finishing off a day of boiling Grottoli agreed with Rathbun when he said if he didn’t get some help from Mother Nature the season was going to come to an end.
“Right now it’s less than a typical year for me,” he said. With about 80 percent of a normal season’s crop stored away Grottoli said he’d need to see some more cooperative weather and trees to be able to continue harvesting sap and boiling it down into maple syrup.