March 15, 2010

Cooking up some maple goodness

At Norridgewock farm and around central Maine, the sap is flowing

By David Leaming, Staff Writer

NORRIDGEWOCK -- The line of bucket-skirted rock maple trees leads to the saphouse where Cheri Farley keeps a steady eye on the boiling sap that soon will be turn into sweet maple syrup.

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SAPPING SEASON: Cheri Farley pours sap from one of 50 buckets she tapped in rock maple trees at her farm on Winding Hill Road in Norridgewock. The early maple season has provided her and many area producers ample opportunity to make syrup.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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BOIL TOIL: Cheri Farley fills an evaporator with wood as maple sap boils into syrup in her saphouse at her farm on Winding Hill Road in Norridgewock. Mild weather has caused the maple syrup making season to start early this year.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Because of unseasonably warm weather, Farley and hundreds of people in central Maine are tapping trees, collecting sap and boiling it into golden sweetness.

This is the second syrup season for Farley and her husband, Robert, at their picturesque farm on the Winding Hill Road. With a year's experience and some new equipment, this season is somewhat simpler.

"Last year we used a turkey roaster to boil sap," Farley said while closely watching the bubbling syrup.

There is now a saphouse the couple bought at a local mill and a new evaporator that heats the sap to nearly the boiling point, piles of dry firewood, 50 tree taps and shiny metal buckets hanging around majestic trees that make the farm look like a scene fit for a calendar.

Farley said the couple want to keep their operation aesthetically pleasing and functional. "It's a hobby and we love it," Farley said.

Farley said they plan to make 15 gallons of syrup -- it will take 600 gallons of sap -- for themselves, family and friends.

She said this year the season was off to an early start. And the continuing cold nights and warm days will make the sap run.

"The weather is now perfect and people have been tapping trees since early February," Farley said. "I would have started back then but I went to Florida where it was freezing," Farley said with a wide grin.

David Leaming -- 861-9255

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