A Sweet Season

From the flatlands of Deerfield to the hills of Ashfield, maple syrup producers began to clean up their buckets, pull out taps and roll up miles of tubing.

It is the end of another sugaring season. And with this winter’s wild weather, the season was sweet for some and sour for others, depending on location.

“It was fantastic,” said Howard Boyden of Boyden Brothers Sugar House in Conway.

The sap first began to flow down the tubing system toward collection tanks dispersed on Conway roads in late February and finished the first week of April. The season was longer than last year.

The Boydens produced 1,015 gallons of syrup from their 5,000 taps. From that, 900 gallons of light amber grade syrup was produced, 100 gallons of medium and a few of dark grade syrup. The different grades depend on the sap temperature. The warmer the sap, the darker the syrup.

Boyden said the harvest was right on schedule.

“The weather was just warm enough and we didn’t have an overflow of sap,” he said.

But higher up in Ashfield, Tom McCrumm of South Face Farm said his season was average at best.

He produced 1,000 gallons of syrup from 4,000 taps across Ashfield, Heath and Hawley.

“There was generally too much cold at my elevation,” said McCrumm. “I’m up here in the valley.”

For 2½ weeks, the South Face Farm sap was lost to the cold and did not flow. The season ran from March 1 to April 8.

According to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, the sugaring season depends on the weather. The optimal weather for sap flow is warm days and cool nights or what is known as “sugar weather.”

Throughout the February to April season, temperatures in the days reached the 40s and higher, with nights down into the 20s.

High up in the hill towns, many of the spring days remained cold, stunting sap flow.

In the low valley, Williams Farm Sugarhouse in Deerfield had a productive season. Sandy Williams said his farm made 2,500 gallons of syrup from 10,000 taps. Most of the syrup was medium amber grade.

“Cold nights, warm days. This year’s was good especially when it warmed up a week ago,” Williams said.

The Williams also had one of the longest seasons — six weeks.

“We made 1,000 gallons more than last year,” Williams said.

At the well-known Gould’s Maple Sugarhouse on the Mohawk Trail in Shelburne, Helen Gould said the maple syrup drizzled over the golden warm pancakes and crystallized into delicious sugar candy as usual.

“We had a good season, about the same as last year. We made as much as we needed for the sugarhouse,” Gould said. “We tapped early. We were able to get nice weather in February and early March.”

Gould said her farm stopped collecting syrup the first week of April due to the cold weather.

The Goulds have been tapping maple trees and serving pancakes and waffles for 53 years. The farm has about 4,000 taps.

Unlike many sugarhouses that close for the season in early April, Gould’s restaurant-sugarhouse stays open until April 28.

While many maple syrup lovers try to savor the last remaining pancakes and sugar candy, the maple producers are beginning the three-week cleanup process. The buds on the maple tree branches have swollen — the sign of the end of the season.