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Thứ Năm, 27 tháng 2, 2014

Cold snap stymies maple sap in state - Ct Post

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Have pity on the pancake. Be patient with the worried waffle.

Their perfect complement -- maple syrup -- should be now flowing, golden brown, from the boiling pans of the state's sugarhouses.

But it has been too cold for the sap to run up to and out of the tens of thousands of taps in state maples. The hard winter has shortened the sweet season.

"Cold daytime temperatures prevent the sap from running," said Steve Conaway, stewardship and outreach manager for the Greenwich Land Trust. "This cold start to the sugaring season shortens the window of time that syrup producers have to collect sap"

Not only is the sap not running, the deep snow has made it hard to get into the woods to get all the taps into trees, according to Mark Mankin, of Great Brook Sugarhouse in New Milford.

"I haven't tapped yet," Mankin said. "It looked like we might have a flow in January, but the bottom just dropped out.

"We should begin making syrup by this weekend. But last year by this time, we had syrup in the containers."

Bill Hill, of Warrup's Farm in Redding, said "it's definitely cut into production."

"It's about three weeks behind," said Mark Harran, of Brookside Farm II in Litchfield.

Harran is president of the Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut, so he's in touch with sugarhouses throughout the state. "I don't think anyone has much sap to speak of," he said.

"It's all dependent on the weather," said Mike Murray, farm manager at New Pond Farm in Redding. "Every year is different. But in general, I'd say our season usually starts in the last week of January."

But not this year. And a look at the forecast -- more freezing temperatures and snow -- doesn't bode well.

"Cold days the first week in March will further shorten the syrup producer's season," Conaway said.

Connecticut produced 20,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- a crop worth about $1 million. Of the 10 states in the U.S. that make maple syrup, Connecticut makes the least. By comparison, Vermont produced 1.3 million gallons in 2013.

That's dwarfed, in turn, by Quebec, which makes about 7.7 million gallons a year.

"Seventy-five percent of the maple syrup sold comes from Quebec," Harran said.

The problem in Connecticut this winter is the arctic chill that's largely ruled for the past two months.

It takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. But for that sap to start running, the temperature should be in the low- to mid-40s during the day, and in the mid-20s at night. It also has to be a clear day.

"If it's those temperatures, but it's rainy and windy, you won't get much sap," Harran said.

On the whole, there's been little of that weather in the state so far. Instead, the days have been in the 20s and 30s, the nights in the teens.

"The trees are frozen," Mankin said.

Making matters worse, what maple syrup producers lose at the beginning of the season can't be made up at the end. By late March or early April, it's usually too warm.

"The days are longer and the trees are starting to bud by then," Harran said. The bud-bound sap, he noted, has a distinctive tang that isn't good for making syrup.

Despite the difficulties of this season, Conaway, who makes maple syrup with the Greenwich Land Trust, doesn't want to discourage future syrup makers.

"It is a simple, fun process. Anyone with a sugar maple in their backyard can make a small batch," he said.

"And," he added, "it's a great excuse to get outside in the winter."

Weather permitting, of course.; 203-731-3345

Anne Semmes contributed to this story.

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