Maple season extending a little from cooler weather

Joel Ferguson, of J and D Percherons, drives a team of horses as passengers enjoy the ride Saturday at Mud Road Sugar House’s open house. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

EPHRATAH —As friendly as he tries to be, the big Easter Bunny can be intimidating.

“About 70 percent [of children] are a little scared at first, but they warm up after a while,” said the bunny in an interview at Mud Road Maple House’s Easter open house Saturday.

“Giving the kids candy” is something the bunny said he likes to do—which probably helps to overcome their fear. “They all say thank you” when they get the candy, he added.

Gary Hill, a former Ephratah resident visiting from Buffalo, set a good example by asking his wife, Cindy, to photograph him with the bunny.

Cindy said she came to buy “maple stuff” since her son “loves maple hard candy.”

The Easter Bunny was just one attraction at the sugar house. Visitors got to learn a lot about making maple syrup from tree sap and were treated to waffles with the syrup made by Mike Ellis. Also drawing visitors were horse-drawn wagon rides by J and D Percherons of Edinburg.

Josh Gordon of Ephratah said he’s seen the trees being tapped for years.

“I grew up right down the road and watched them tap the trees,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve been here. We’ve always meant to come.”

He added that the Easter Bunny was a draw and his wife’s mother likes maple cream.

Josh and his wife, Whitney, and children Grayson and Charlie, got a chance to learn more about the syrup-making process from co-owner Vern Duesler IV, including the temperature needed to boil the sap into syrup. Duesler said the boiling temperature of water is very dependent on the atmosphere’s barometer pressure, which can vary daily. He periodically fed the wood-burning oven, which can hit 800 to 900 degrees.

He showed how the syrup’s density is measured by a hydrometer to determine its quality.

Duesler said his company has produced almost 700 gallons so far and if it can exceed that, it will be “a phenomenal year.” Cool nights and warm days have helped, he said, noting that the season ends when the trees start budding. His father, Vern Duelsler III, said the melting snow has also helped by saturating the maple tree roots.

Ben David and his family came to the Easter day because they “missed a maple weekend,” a statewide promotion of the maple syrup industry held on the previous two weekends. He said they came after learning about the open house on Facebook.

By Kerry Minor

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