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The Thompson-Ames Historical Society
writes a weekly news release.

The most recent article is shown below.
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3/12/06   The Delight of Maple Sugaring Time at Bolduc Farm

No one needs to tell you that this has been an almost “winterless” winter season for us. There has been a lot of unusually warm weather punctuated with spells of cold.

To say the least, this has affected the flow of sap in the maple trees. Why, back in early February on the Bolduc Farm, the maples were ready to be tapped and enough sap was accumulated for a boiling to take place! And then the weather turned cool again and the sap stopped flowing.

Well, the recent return of warm days and cool nights revved up the flow of sap again, and on Friday afternoon, March 10th, Ernie Bolduc telephoned Thompson-Ames Historical Society, as he had promised, and stated that boiling to turn maple sap into maple syrup would take place during the weekend, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

As T-AHS had promised, we did our best to get the word out. An invitation to go to Bolduc Farm’s maple sugaring gala was put on the Society’s website www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org, notices were placed in Gilford Public Library and in the windows of Gilford Village’s Grange Museum Building, and announcements were included at the Society’s Open House on Saturday morning.

Saturday afternoon I grabbed a camera and went to the Bolduc’s Sugar House on Morrill Street. What a wonderful venture it was!

As I opened the door and stepped into the building, a cloud of maple-fragrant vapor engulfed me and filled every inch of the room. A blazing fire could be seen under the evaporating tank which was frothing to the top as the sap boiled. Armond Bolduc and a friend were tending to the fire and the boiling of the sap.

Through the archway beyond, I could see Ernie Bolduc who was explaining the maple syrup process to other visitors who had arrived shortly before me. To the right of them was another area partially obscured by a folding door which kept out the steam.

Soon Ernie came to extend his usual warm greeting and explain the overall process.

The first thing we did was to walk out the back door to look at a maple tree whose spigots were letting sap flow into pails fastened on the tree to collect the sap. Overhead hung tubes that were using gravity feed to bring sap from trees far off in the sugar bush to the sugar house for processing.

I asked Ernie to pause for a minute so that I could take a photo of him standing by the tree. Then, returning indoors, we peered through windows to follow the tubes that bring sap to the large holding tank. Ernie pointed to a small electric motor used to pump sap up to another tank from which gravity feed would then allow the sap to flow, when needed, into the evaporating tank.

There is careful control of the flow of sap into the evaporating tank with temperature gauges used to maintain the heat of the boiling sap.

A ready supply of firewood was on hand to feed the fire under the vintage arch which originally came from the old sugar shack that now sits unused on the Smarts’ property at the top of School House Hill Road.

Ernie explained that sugaring at the Bolduc Farm location has been going on since 1779 – possibly the country’s oldest continuously operating sugar bush! Out back is their old sugar shack that has been refurbished and sits as an historic memento.

A long, hot evaporating process is required to boil 40 gallons of sap down to create each gallon of syrup. With so much water in the sap being boiled off, no wonder so much steam is created!

At this stage, it’s Ernie’s turn to become involved in the long process. In the alcove it is Ernie’s job to pass the boiling-hot maple syrup through a series of many cloth filters of varying thicknesses to remove the “sugar sand” that would give the maple syrup an unpleasant grittiness.

The resulting maple syrup is color-graded against a set of sampling bottles before it is ready to be poured into waiting containers, which are then sealed, dated and stood upside-down to guarantee purity.

As the final steps in his role in the sugaring process, Ernie then rinses each of the thick cloth filters over and over again until the residual and stain are gone. To squeeze all the water out of the filters -- which would disintegrate if wrung out , Ernie uses a device, created from two pieces of wood hinged together with leather, that is mounted on the wall above the straining station. At that point, both Ernie and the straining station are ready and waiting for the next syrup run that will come from the evaporating tank.

What would it be like to see all of this happen, without tasting the end results? Well, no visitor would leave the Bolduc Sugar House without the opportunity to not only see and smell the syrup in the making but also to taste the delicious results. And the end results are truly yummy! Just think: Native Americans had developed a maple-sugaring process which they shared with the “new comers”, and still to this day, and undoubtedly on into the future, the process will continue to be part of the late-winter-into-spring time of year when the daytime temperatures are warm while the nighttime temperatures are still cool.

Before I bring this writing to an end, I must say one more thing. Sugaring time is, without question, a time when people “work together” but also a time when the workers and others, too, come together in a kind of camaraderie that satisfies a basic need that makes people “people”. -- Hats off to the Bolducs for offering this wonderful experience to us right here in our own neighborhood.

Weather permitting, sugaring off will be occurring at the Bolduc Farm on Morrill Street in Gilford again this coming weekend. -- Watch Thompson-Ames Historical Society’s website www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org as well as posters in Gilford Village in the Grange windows and at the Library for announcements about when maple syrup processing will be happening at the Bolduc Farm.