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Students tap trees for sap for Maple Sugar Festival

February 13, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

CLEAR SPRING - Even though the annual Maple Sugar Festival at Fairview Outdoor Education Center isn't until Feb. 24, the work has already begun to make the event special.

Pearle Howell, a Fairview faculty member for 16 years, said students from Clear Spring High School agriculture classes started tapping the maple trees for sap beginning Feb. 9 even though conditions were less than ideal.

The process needs cold nights and warm days to produce the most sap, Howell said. The students will keep records for 14 days showing how much sap was obtained from each tree.

"Sugar maples usually grow at altitudes of at least 1,000 feet," Howell said. "It's only about 600 feet here."

On Feb. 9, Roger Shoemaker, Ben Harbaugh and Adam Reid drove over to the amphitheater at Fairview from school and, following Howell's instructions, began the tapping process.

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All three were enthusiastic, albeit cold, as they began this enterprise which Shoemaker said was a first experience with tapping trees for all three of the students of Terrie Shank and Sue Lowery.

"We will keep the sap in buckets to use on the festival day," Howell said.

Plans are to tap the trees again on Feb. 24, but the earlier tapping was needed because not enough could be gathered in one day for the demonstrations.

On festival day, the sap that was gathered ahead of time and on that day will be boiled in large pots for the demonstration.

The maple syrup that is made on festival day cannot be sold because of Health Department regulations, Howell said.

"We buy maple syrup from Allegany County commercial growers and sell it on festival day," she said.

Howell said she got the maple sugar festival going back in 2003.

"It's a nice project for the Clear Spring High School kids."

On the day of the festival, those who attend will get to turn the handle on the auger drill to reach the sap. Then a "spile" is inserted into the trunk - a wooden straw that would permit the sap to flow through the tree and into a bucket.

Maple trees that have reached at least 10 inches in diameter start producing sap in the late winter or early spring. The process lasts about a month.

The sap is heated, or reduced, to become syrup.

It is estimated it takes at least 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup.

The Sap to Syrup demonstrations will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There also will be children's activities, including a treasure hunt, spile making, maple tin punching and leaf printing.

On the same day, Plumb Grove House tours will be available from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The house, which also is on Draper Road, abuts the Fairview Outdoor School.

Breakfast and lunch foods will be cooked and available for sale at Plumb Grove, thanks to volunteers from the Clear Spring District Historical Society. Baked goods also will be for sale.

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