Maple sugaring: New England's cherished spring tradition

An early spring hampered this year's maple syrup production. But at the Davenport Maple Farm in Shelburne, Mass., the taps ran just as they always have done for the past century.

Joanne Ciccarello / Staff
Overview of the boiling room of the sugarhouse at Davenport Maple Farm in Shelburne, Mass. March 10, 2012. Typically it takes approximately 40+ gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
Joanne Ciccarello / Staff
Norman Davenport taps a sugar maple tree for sap on his property at the Davenport Maple Farm. Davenport Maple Farm produces between 200 and 800 gallons of syrup per season from 3,800 taps.

The pancakes taste better if you first visit the boiler room of the Davenport Maple Farm in Shelburne, Mass.  

Sugaring is as much a way of life for the Davenport's as it is a means of income. The farm will have been in the family 100 years as of 2013. The sugarhouse is not a replica of a long forgotten New England tradition. The old equipment, cans, and tubes are the real thing, even if they are family relics.

The boiling room is the place where neighbors, family, friends and tourists visit to see the clear, white maple tree sap being boiled into thick, golden maple syrup. Locals come by to check on the syrup making, comparing notes with Norm Davenport, who has a dead pan New England sense of humor. Tourists check out the scenery, settle in on a bench as the steam rises from the evaporator, taking it in while Lisa Davenport willingly explains how to make syrup again and again. 

Other visitors bring cameras to photograph the mounted deer head on the two-story wall. Children count the elves that are hanging in various places from the ceiling – a game Maegan Senser devised to keep children amused while their parents talk syrup.

This year's warm weather and early spring hampered production, cutting the Davenports final tally (419 gallons) to half of last year's banner year (880 gallons). Though the season is brief, it is labor intensive, requiring careful maintenance of the tap lines and long hours boiling sap. That’s the thing about sugaring – no technology will alter the process of trees making sap. Nature will take her time or speed up at will.

Just have the pancakes ready.

To see a slideshow of the Davenport Maple Farm click here.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.