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How sweet it is!

Family taps into a tasty hobby

John Stevens, of Maple Ledge farm throws a few pieces of wood into the fire pit of the evaporator at the farm’s new sugar house, while explaining the sugaring process to a young visitor Saturday. Shawn Kelley. (click for larger version)
March 22, 2010
HOLLAND — When John Stevens was a child, he used to help his grandfather collect sap from maple trees , by horse-drawn sleigh.

Now, John and his wife, Debbie, are continuing the family tradition by making maple syrup each season at Maple Ledge Farm on Vinton Road.

"I've always boiled sap here," said John Stevens. "It is remarkably simple."

The Stevens' start the process around mid-February by collecting sap from 300 taps in 100 trees on their, and neighboring properties, John Stevens said. John Stevens then moves the sap from one holding tank to another, then into an evaporator for processing.

The evaporator, he said, boils the some of the water out of the sap, leaving "near syrup," behind. Next, the substance is moved to a gas-finishing pan to make "final syrup," of which about 80 percent is sugar.

John Stevens said he can cook the sap for varying lengths of time to create different grades of syrup. To assure he has the correct sap-to-sugar ratio, he uses a hydrometer to measure the sugar content.

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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