Maple syrup season shaping up to be a sour one

By Brian Sweeney
Unless things turn around quickly, the 2010 maple syrup season will go down in the books as a very sour one.
A record snowstorm in late February, followed by much higher than average temperatures in March, have made for an uneven season, at best.
Fleischmanns resident Ron Morse has been making syrup at Vly Creek Maple Farm for many years. He taps about 700 trees and has produced as many as 300 gallons of syrup in a single season. So far this year, Morse has made about 55 gallons.
“It isn’t going very well,” Morse told the News.
Morse said he had a limited number of trees tapped before successive storms on Feb. 23 and 25 dumped an average of four to five feet of snow on the area.
“I had my best day right before the snow, even though I only had a few taps out,” Morse explained.
It took him three weeks to shovel paths to the trees to get them all tapped.
Unfortunately, a series of days with temperatures ranging from the 50s to nearly 70, combined with relatively warm overnights, slowed the sap flow to a crawl.
“The atmospheric conditions haven’t been right,” Morse commented.
He pointed out that the only thing saving this season from being a total disaster was the deep snow that cooled lines and kept the sap from souring.
With cooler temperatures expected later this week, Morse is hopeful that production will spike.
“If we get another warm spell, it will pretty much bring the season to an end.” Morse added, “But if it stays cool for a couple of weeks, it will make a whole lot of difference.”
Ken Burger has been making maple syrup on his Millbrook Road, Margaretville property for more than 30 years. He said this is shaping up to be his worst year for maple production.
Although he was fortunate to have his trees tapped prior to the late February storms, the huge amount of snow made it impossible to get to his sap lines because they were buried.
Compounding the problem was the difficulty of even getting up and down the driveway.
Burger said he’s made only 30 gallons of syrup so far, compared to an average of 60 to 70 gallons at this point in an average year. He has made as many as 130 gallons in a season.
“The way it is right now, it’s over. It’s going to be my worst season ever,” Burger stated. Still he retained a bit of optimism and added, “…unless it stays cold for a couple of days.”
At Frost Valley YMCA in Claryville, the average production at this point in the season is about 240 gallons. So far, they staff has produced 130 gallons of syrup.
Ben Snyder, Frost Valley’s director of natural resources and environmental science, said this season’s flow of sap has been much slower than normal.
“My best guess is that we are near or at the end of the season, unless the colder weather that is supposed to be heading our way on Thursday revives the season,” Snyder explained.