Sunday, March 27, 2011

Signs of Spring

Maple sugar time

This past Saturday I traveled to Keene New Hampshire for the Maple sap gathering competition at Stonewall farm.

The day was pleasant with mostly blue skies with just a few occasional scattered clouds that dotted the country skyline.


Commercial Maple sap gathering has pretty much gone high tech these days but the competition consists of teams using a horse drawn sled to gather sap.  The team consists of a two horse team pulling the sled with driver and two sap gathers to empty the sap buckets into the vat mounted on the sled. 

Speed is one of the measures of a team but there are points for a number of judged actions that the team must complete while on the sap gathering trail.

The competition started in the morning with a lunch break in the farm’s visitor center.
The building has two levels with restroom facilities on both floors to accommodate guests.  In the morning hot beverages and breakfast pastries were served in the lower dining area and during the noontime break the upper level dining area served food beverages for lunch.

Guests were able to get the chill out their bones by standing near the large stone fireplace in the upstairs dining area.
The upper level of the visitor center also includes a gift shop where Maple Syrup and other locally produced products and crafts may be purchased.
The old time traditional New England process to produce Maple Syrup was by tapping Maple trees with a spout which collected the tree’s sap in a galvanized bucket.
The collected sap was brought to the sugar house where the excess water is evaporated off to get a fine grade of syrup.

The heat for the evaporator is created by burning wood in a firebox directly under the evaporator.

The sugar house is designed to allow moisture boiled out of the sap to rise as steam and vent out through the roof of the building.

It takes many gallons of sap to produce one gallon of fine quality Maple Syrup.  However, there is no substitute for pure Maple Syrup poured over a stack of warm pancakes.

Visitors to the sugar house are treated to a sample of warm, freshly made syrup.  Vanilla ice cream with fresh Maple Syrup poured over it is sold outdoors no matter what the temperature may be.  The ice cream is a substitute for that old time New England treat of having Maple Syrup poured over a cup of fresh snow.

Stonewall Farm is a year round facility with a working dairy farm that provides milk to the local community.  It is also an educational facility that provides many programs for all family members throughout the year.  Information about the farm and the events that are held at the farm can be obtained from the farm’s website at: