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Chủ Nhật, 15 tháng 3, 2015

The sap is running - The North Bay Nugget

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The sap is running

NIPISSING TOWNSHIP – The sap is running, and David Krebelka and Bryan Sieber are getting their first taste of a sweet treat.

They’re no strangers to the area. Krebelka, from Litomerice, Czech Republic, and Sieber, from Zurich, Switzerland, were teammates on the Powassan Eagles (now the Parry Sound Islanders) for a couple of years.

Now they’re back for a quick visit, and to take in the first tapping ceremony at Matthews Maple Syrup Saturday.

“I’ve had maple syrup before, but not this kind of candy,” Krebelka says as he checks out maple taffy, freshly poured in a pan of ice and twirled up on a popsicle stick.

“It’s good,” Sieber says. “It’s a good experience.”

The two hockey players were among several dozen people on hand for the ceremony, one of the lead-ins to the Powassan Maple Syrup Festival being held next month. Local dignitaries and Powassan’s town crier, Hugh Smith, have made the trek out to the sugar bush to welcome the imminent arrival of spring and to get their first taste of maple goodness.

The first syrup was boiled Saturday at 9:05 a.m., Audrey Matthews says.

“It was our first boil of the year,” she says as she chats with visitors and customers checking out the shelves of maple products.

There was no January thaw this year, but it doesn’t seem to have affected sap production. As part of the festivities, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, Nipissing Township Mayor Pat Haufe, Chisholm Township Mayor Leo Jobin and Powassan Mayor Peter McIsaac get to tap their own trees the traditional way, with hammers, spiles and buckets.

Even before they hammer the spiles in place, sap is dripping from the holes they’ve drilled.

“The sap always comes,” Audrey Matthews says. “It’s just a matter of when.”

Matthews is a large operation for this year, although small compared to some of the sugar bushes in Quebec. Last year they produced 3,600 gallons of maple syrup - “A bumper crop,” according to Dave Matthews.

Normally, he said, they aim to produce about 3,000 gallons. But last year’s wet, cool spring came through for them, even though they didn’t get their first boil until early April.

In fact, production was so good last year that they actually sold some of the light maple syrup to Quebec producers.

And while a lot of the tradition is kept – there’s a large cauldron full of sap boiling away over a fire – there’s also a lot of new technology in play here.

Computers, cameras and monitoring equipment keep tabs on the kilometres of plastic piping directing the sap to the sugar shack. A glance at a computer screen can show if any of the lines are plugged or broken, either by wildlife – Mathews says bears and plastic tubing “are drawn to each other” - or have been pulled apart for other reason.

“We’re still in the early stages,” Dave Matthews said Saturday as the sap flowed from his sugar bush to the sugar shack.

This isn’t the earliest the sap has started flowing in his bush. In their 36 years of business, they’ve actually collected sap as early as February.

He’s hoping for another banner year this year, although he isn’t sure what kind of an effect the new monitoring system will have.

“It’s really going to change” the operation, he said.

“There are 54 lines out there, and we can send the boys right out to whichever one is having a problem.”

Altogether, there are 15,000 taps in the bush.

“We’ve got a good start to the season,” he says. “But it’s hard to say what kind of a season we’ll have. I hope it’s as good as last year.”

The Matthews’ operation covers about 350 acres now in use, and another 100 or so acres being prepared for next year. Some of the brush was cleared out of the lower 100 acres last year, but the summer was too wet to build roads through it.

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