Written by Becky McGlauflin: DOVER-FOXCROFT – The months of March and April sometimes get a bad rap in Maine. Late snow storms, mud season, car-eating pot holes, and man-eating black flies don't always cultivate a desire to "think spring." However, the plumes of delicious-smelling steam floating above the roof of sugarhouses across the state mark the beginning of the sweetest part of spring … maple syrup season.
Maine Maple Sunday is held every year on the fourth Sunday in March. On that day, Maine's maple syrup producers offer free maple syrup samples, sugarhouse tours, demonstrations, prizes and fun activities to introduce people to "sugaring."
Bob Moore, owner of Bob's Sugar House on East Main Street in Dover-Foxcroft, has been producing maple syrup for 63 years, and his entire family is involved. Moore estimates that 3,000-4,000 people pass through his sugarhouse on a typical open house weekend.
Bob's Sugar House has been participating in a Maine Maple Sunday open house for at least 20 years, originally for one day only. The event became such a popular destination for families, school classes, and sweet tooths of all ages, that they had to add Saturday to take some pressure off. "Sometimes you can't get around in here," Moore said.
Their popularity isn't limited to the local area, county or even the state. "We ship worldwide through our website," Moore noted. "The only continent that we haven't shipped to is Antarctica. I guess penguins don't eat syrup," he said.
Moore acquired an interest in sugaring when he was very young. He began helping a local farmer make syrup back when they carried sap in buckets and boiled it over a fireplace in a field. At the end of each season, the farmer allowed Moore to take home the extra sap in a 10-gallon milk can on his homemade wagon. He boiled it down in his mother's cake pan, and began a journey that has gone through several decades of modernizing.
Moore rents trees within a 20-mile radius. It takes an average of 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. "Right now it's taking a little more," he explained. "It's not very sweet this year."
There are many factors that affect the amount and quality of sap, but sometimes it seems to have a mind of its own.
Last season, they had the exact opposite of every requirement needed for the sap to run, and to Moore's surprise, it ran exceptionally well. "In the 63 years that I have been making syrup, our best runs came last year," he said.
The unusually hot weather last week didn't affect the sap flow as seriously as they expected, either. "Normally when we hit 50 degrees, the sap will stop," Moore explained. "It was 75 degrees and the sap was running. I guess it's 'when you gotta go, you gotta go!'" he said with a smile.
Moore said that he can move up to 500 gallons of sap through every hour, depending on its sweetness, and he produces five to eight gallons of syrup per hour. That kind of efficiency comes with a price tag. The three burners on his evaporator consume 26 and one-half gallons of No. 2 heating fuel per hour.
Moore chuckled when he talked about the misconceptions that people have about maple syrup production. "They say, 'Now that you have the syrup all made, what are you going to do the rest of the year?'" They stay busy tapping trees, maintaining equipment, shipping products, and during the Christmas season, they operate a kiosk at the Bangor Mall. Moore's wife, Barbara, experiments with new maple syrup recipes that are available on their website http://mainemaplesyrup.com. Visitors are welcome to stop by the sugarhouse anytime."This content originally appeared as a copyrighted article in the SVWeekly.com and is used here with permission."