Maple Chases Away Old Man Winter
“Deep, mealy snow and cold have slowed us down, but the taps are in, waiting for sap and getting ready for Thurman Maple Days.” So says Randy Galusha of Toad Hill Maple Farm and organizer of Maple Days in Thurman, describing the nail-biting period our region’s maple producers seem to face most years, as they wait for winter to release its grasp and the sap to rise in the maples. No one in the North Country needs to be told how cold it has been, and it was into this cold that the men and women of maple had to sally forth to get the tapping done. Galusha’s summary, “Tapping was kind of brutal,” seems an understatement.
Tapping accomplished, they await the perfect temperatures required for sap to flow in the maple trees – freezing nights followed by days above 32 degrees Farenheit. Seasoned sugar makers, the folks at Toad Hill, Valley Road, Hidden Hollow and Adirondack Gold maple farms, have learned to roll with the unpredictability of the season, confident that the maple nectar will flow and maple syrup, cream, and candies will again line the shelves of their gift shops by the time guests come calling during Thurman Maple Days, March 14-15, 21-22, and 28-29. Although general event hours for tours, tasting, talks, demonstrations and shopping are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Valley Road opens for pancake breakfasts at 9 a.m., serving until 1 p.m. “We’ve got the griddle warming,” say Mike Hill, co-owner. Cheryl Kenyon, co-owner of Adirondack Gold, is quick to remind visitors that “maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes anymore.” Helping to celebrate the season with open houses are Martin’s Lumber with Maple slabs, wooden wares and interactive craft demonstrations for all ages, Peru Llama farm with an introduction to llama thinking, author-signed books and a chance to try out snowshoes, and Nettle Meadow Farm’s goat and sheep dairy, where farm tours are planned, weather permitting. Says Nettle Meadow co-owner Sheila Flanagan, “We're hoping for some nice weather so that customers will get a chance to meet our newest group of baby lambs and kids.” The hosts look forward to this event. As Wini Martin of Martin’s Lumber says, “We love sharing our interests with all who stop by. We look forward to seeing friends and neighbors who come year after year, and also to visiting with new guests and getting to know them.” Shops are open at all sites, so guests may take home a little bit of Thurman Maple Days.
This first weekend of Maple Days is highlighted by the annual Thurman Maple Sugar Party, an all-you-can-eat buffet crowned with dessert of old-fashioned maple jack wax. The Warren County Ramblers will provide lively music and you’ll be served by the friendliest folks around. Proceeds from the dinner benefit the American Cancer Society for the 56th year. The dinner begins at 4 p.m. and continues until all are served. See www.ThurmanMapleSugarParty.com. Other extras include the Upper Hudson Maple Queen, Jessica Benoit, who will greet guests at Valley Road Maple Farm on each day from 9 – 1, and a noon presentation on Sunday,
February 15, at Toad Hill Maple Farm, when TV cooking show personality and cookbook author Amy Rota-Poulan will share “Cooking Gluten-Free with Amy,” a must-see for those on gluten-free diets.
The mantra for the three weekends of Thurman Maple Days is “come early, stay late.” Visit all 7 sites (within a small radius, easily found by signs at every turn). Pick up a map and guide at town hall or any site, or download one at www.ThurmanMapleDays.com.
Coinciding with Maple Days this year is sister event “Sweet Maple Menu Days,” in which area eateries feature special entrees, beverages and desserts created with Thurman maple products. Palette tempting treats like maple barbecued wings, maple glazed cinnamon buns, maple cheesecake, salmon fillet brushed with maple syrup and a whole grain mustard and baked with an apple pecan crust, maple crème brulee and a maple bourbon martini. See participating businesses and their respective delicacies at www.SweetMapleMenuDays.com.