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Weather's ideal for making maple syrup

A continual spring freeze and thaw might not be good for potholes, but it means booming business for maple syrup producers.

"The maple syrup season is every spring," said Andy Kinter of Andy's Own Maple Syrup in Indiana County. "The trees have to be thawed out for the sap to run."

Kinter spoke to about 60 people who visited the Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center on Sunday afternoon to learn about the process of turning maple tree sap into syrup and sugar. He demonstrated how to tap a maple tree after showing the group photographs and videos of the operations at his farm near Marion Center.

"When maple trees thaw out, positive pressure builds up inside the tree," Kinter said, which causes the clear liquid to flow out.

Holes are drilled into any type of maple tree and then a tap is lightly hammered into the hole, he demonstrated. Attached to the tap is either a bucket to catch the sap or plastic tubing to run the liquid to a bucket at another tree.

The best time to extract the sap is during the spring when the temperatures are above freezing during the day and then dip below 32 degrees at night. Kinter said he started tapping trees Feb. 14 and expects to continue collecting sap for about another week.

"We tapped 900 trees this year," he said. "Every tree runs a different amount of sap depending on the tree and the day."

Kinter explained to the group that after the sap is collected, it is transported through a series of tanks at his farm and eventually the extra water is eliminated, resulting in the final form of syrup.

About 60 gallons of sap from a maple tree equals one gallon of syrup, he said, and the take from a tree in one day can vary between a gallon or a quart.

It took Kinter less than 20 seconds to drill a hole into a tree outside the learning center and lightly hammer in a tap. He pointed out an old hole in the tree that had been drilled and eventually will heal.

In a season of about six week , trees can produce between 10 and 15 gallons, Kinter said.

Yesterday wasn't the first time maple syrup was demonstrated at the Environmental Learning Center. After a positive response during a similar program last year, learning center program coordinator Dennis Hawley decided to have another session as a way to reach out to the public.

"It gets people to know that we're here," he said. "We get most of our money from user fees and donations ... and things like that."

A goal of the center is to promote environmental education and the program yesterday was "just another aspect of how people can benefit from being outdoors."

Hawley said he hopes to increase program offerings to one every couple of weeks compared to monthly now.

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