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Thứ Hai, 24 tháng 2, 2014

Cold snap stymies maple sap in state - The Advocate

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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.

"It looked like we might have a flow in January, but the bottom just dropped out," said Mark Mankin, of Great Brook Sugarhouse in New Milford. "We should begin making syrup by this weekend. But last year by this time, we had syrup in the containers."

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

Not only is the sap not running, Hill said, the deep snow has made it hard to get into the woods to get all the taps into trees.

"I haven't tapped yet," he said.

"I spent last Saturday in the woods on snowshoes," Mankin said.

"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."

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. In comparison, Vermont produced 1.3 million gallons in 2013.

That's dwarfed in turn by Quebec, Canada, 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.

But 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.

What maple syrup producers lose at the beginning of the season can't be added 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.

But there's still hope.

This weekend looks promising, and a solid block of good weather in March could make up for the days lost to the cold.

"Last year, we didn't start until Feb. 13, and it was the best year we ever had," Harran said. "It's not too late."; 203-731-3345

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