March 19, 2007

Maple syrup season flows across region

Maple season

Bob Ellis/staff photographer     
Steam rises from the evaporator as Stephen Dellow uses a hydrometer to check his syrup. Dellow owns S&S Syrup in Marathon.

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — Just beyond the It’s Worth the Trip Gift Shop on Irish Hill Road in Marathon, smoke slips out of the rafters of Stephen Dellow’s sugar shack. A small sign barely visible, reads, “Pure Maple Syrup.”
The smell of burning wood tinged with the faint smell of boiling sap envelopes the air.
For the past 32 years maple syrup production has become somewhat of a tradition to Dellow, who owns S&S Syrup in Marathon.
“I really do enjoy it,” he said. “It’s just the satisfaction of making something yourself.”
Dellow is not alone. Maple farmers all across the region are tending to their first boil and gearing up for either Maple Weekend or the Central New York Maple Festival.
Maple Weekend is an open house for maple farms held last weekend and next, while the Central New York Maple Festival is Saturday and Sunday in Marathon.
Dave Metzger, of Sugar Ridge Maple Farm, in Homer, said he started boiling his sap on March 11. “I guess I have syrup in my blood,” said Metzger whose father introduced him to maple syrup production when he was 17 years old. “I look forward to it every year.”
Metzger usually starts boiling in early March to late February. He started late this year, whereas last year he started early on Feb. 2. Maple syrup season is contingent on the weather.
Metzger said he has 1,400 trees and he is unsure of how much sap was collected or how much syrup has boiled so far, but he expects to boil “400 gallons of syrup easy” during the course of the season.
On Tuesday, Dellow said he collected 600 gallons of sap, which yielded approximately 12 gallons of syrup.
Dellow said he has 75 acres of land in Freetown, but he tapped 1,600 trees on 20 acres of land, which yield approximately 300 to 400 gallons of syrup a year.
New York is third behind Vermont and Maine in maple syrup production in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Maple syrup production in 2006 was 14 percent higher than the previous year.
More than 253,000 gallons of syrup were produced in New York last year, which is up from 2005’s 222,000 gallons, according to USDA estimates.
In New York, maple syrup production hit its peak in the late 1920s to early 1930s with more than one million gallons being produced.
Maple syrup production for the United States in 2006 was 1.45 million gallons, which is up 14 percent from 2005, according to the USDA.
The Wyoming County Maple Producers Association said maple syrup was discovered by the Iroquois Indians. On a day in early March, Iroquois Chief Woksis threw his tomahawk into the trunk of a maple tree. With the weather warm, sap dripped into a container near the trunk. Woksis’ wife thought the sap was like water and used it for cooking meat, which made the meat sweet.
Sap collection has come a long way from an accidental tomahawk throw. Now, holes are drilled approximately a half-inch wide and 3 inches deep to enable sap to be drained from the tree and to allow it to heal.
Brian Chabot, a Cornell University professor and director of the Cornell Maple Program, recommends trees 10 to 15 inches in diameter should have one tap. Two taps can be placed on trees 15 to 20 inches in diameter and three taps on trees 20 inches or wider.
Chabot said a tree partitions off the area where a hole is drilled. He said unlike a branch that grows back, when a hole is drilled into the tree, it remains for the duration of the tree’s life span.
Chabot also said the old method of collecting sap with buckets has largely been replaced by intricate plastic tubing systems.
“The small buckets take more work,” Chabot said.
Dellow said he first started with 200 buckets, but now he has a plastic tubing system that stretches a total of three miles.
“I don’t think I would be making much (syrup) right now if I didn’t have a vacuum system,” Dellow said.
Metzger agrees with Dellow. He said that the plastic tubing vacuum system doubles sap production. He said the vacuum system makes the sap flow better because of lower pressure being outside the tree.
Dellow said at first making maple syrup was just a hobby, but over the years it has turned into a “little business” that at times has him working 18-hour days.
“It makes the best presents in the world,” Dellow said of maple syrup products.
Dellow’s sugar shack is 24 by 34 feet; it is equipped with a wood-fired evaporator, which boils the sap into syrup, a maple cream machine, maple filter machine to filter the syrup, and stacks of wood to fuel the evaporator.
Both Dellow and Metzger use maple syrup to make other products, such as maple candy, cream, sugar, nuggets and cotton candy.
Jim Little, owner of the Misty Valley Bed and Breakfast in Cincinnatus, has been a regular customer of Dellow’s for the past 10 years.
Little said the purity and flavor of Dellow’s maple syrup keeps him coming back.
“I can’t say it’s the best with authority because I don’t try anyone else’s,” Littel said. “But it’s one of the best.”
He said that his wife’s specialty is French toast and the maple syrup enhances it.
Dellow said he would like to continue producing maple syrup for the next 20 years.
“If you thought of it as work, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it,” Dellow said. “You have to like it.”


It depends on the weather

Maple Info

Brian Chabot, a Cornell University professor and director of the Cornell Maple Program, said maple syrup season usually begins in either early March or late February and ends approximately in mid-April.
He said this year, the season started a week later than usual, but there were producers who tapped their trees in December and January because of “very warm temperatures.”
Stephen Dellow, of S&S Syrup, in Marathon, said the last few years has been tough on maple syrup farmers because of shortened seasons, he added that he is hopeful that this year will be a “pretty good year, but it was too early to tell.”
Dave Metzger, of Sugar Ridge Maple Farm, in Homer, said that so far the weather has not been bad.
“For a good run, you need below freezing temperatures at night and temperatures above 40 in the day,” said Metzger.
He added the cold weather in the region last week would make the syrup “lighter,” which is good.
Metger said the last few days there has been a constant run of sap. So far he foresees an average syrup production year.
He said there are two things that end the season, the tapering of freezing temperatures and the growth of the trees.
Sasha Austrie




One Hundred Years of Music

Cortland County’s heritage noteworthy

Staff Reporter

Biased or not, the speakers at the One Hundred Years of Music in Cortland presentation listed dozens of examples of high-caliber musicians that have emerged from the local area and made a ripple in the professional world.
About 260 people fanned out in the indoor soccer center adjoining the East End Community Center as the speakers recalled more than three generations of Cortland County’s musical heritage.
Mary Ann Kane, the director of the Cortland County Historical Society and the city historian, detailed the beginnings of music in Cortland, when the principal tradition was descended from the no frills hymns of Methodists and Congregationalists. In the 1840s, though, traveling duets, trios and quartets began appearing around the area.
This music was what we would consider “classical,” and included the Italian operas that were popular at the time.
“Just exactly where they gave their concerts is hard to know, because one (handbill) just says ‘in the auditorium,’ or ‘in Jefferson Hall,’ and we don’t know where that was,” Kane said, adding that Messenger Hall soon opened up on the fourth floor of the building that now houses Sarvay’s Shoes and the Deli Downtown.
In 1883, the “wedding cake” hotel on the corner of Groton Avenue and Main Street was lost to fire, and the property owner asked that something be done with the vacant parcel next door — as a result, the city fathers purchased the parcel and began building the Cortland Opera House 1885.
Some of the productions included nearly 500 singers, Kane said.
There were rarely problems with getting nationally known performers to come to Cortland because they were so well received, Kane said; John Philip Sousa appeared several times over the years.
By the 1890s, most of the towns had their own bands, which is surprising considering there was no formal music education in schools. Grandchildren shared the stages with their grandparents.
One of Cortland’s stars from the era was Patrick Conway, a composer who Kane said rivaled Sousa for “notoriety and fame” at the time. Although he had a bit of wanderlust, Conway had spent most of his young life in Homer, and went on to be the founder of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.
Kane pointed out that Conway was Irish, and not Italian, but presenter Sam Forcucci, a retired music professor from SUNY Cortland, was certainly able to show that the Italians had provided their share of musical talent on Cortland’s behalf.
Forcucci told a story about sitting with a group of musicians and wowing them with all of the names of prominent local professional musicians, such as the jazz trombonist Spiegle Willcox, jazz drummer Danny D’ Imperio and Arny Gabriel, the commander/conductor of the internationally renowned U.S. Air Force Band, Symphony Orchestra and Singing Sergeants from 1964 to 1985.
“I’m going to challenge the panel to prove that Cortland is music country,” Forcucci said.
He continued to drop names; arranger and trumpet player Alfred “Corky” Fabrizio was one of the biggest names in Cortland, and Cortland native Bill Dillon, best known for his national hit-song, “I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl that Married Dear Old Dad.”
“I hope that you noticed, from those names that I’ve read, that most of them are Italian names,” Forcucci bragged.
He traced the evolution of the Old Timers Band from the St. Anthony’s Band, when the saint’s annual feast needed music, to the Cortland Civic Band and finally the Old Timers Band, which Forcucci himself directed for more than 20 years, before stepping down in the 1990s.
In addition to Willcox, the local jazz great who played with some of the biggest names in jazz and continued to play into his 90s, famed trumpeter Louis Armstrong passed through the area and ate at the Green Arch — and got thrown out for his bands behavior after-hours.
The Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands also passed through town on several occasions.
And the musicians continued to proliferate into the 1950s and beyond, as presenter Jim Pantas, a former manager for many of the acts, detailed some of the musicians he had encountered.
The Cosimo Brothers trio — Pat, Phil and Sam — was one of Cortland’s first rock and roll exports, soon followed by the Davis Kings, Ronnie Dio and the Prophets, and the band Wool, featuring Cortland-native Tom Haskell.
Today, bands from that era still play together, including the Cafferty Band and Don Barber and the Dukes, and the Rods, featuring Dave Feinstein.
“Why Cortland?” Pantas asked the audience. “Well, if you listen to any of this today, the people that these kids came from were all music people. They all had musicians in their family. I don’t think there’s a place in the country where people are as supportive of their music community as in Cortland. I haven’t seen any other place like that.”


Village elections set for Tuesday

Residents of most area villages are scheduled to go to the polls Tuesday to fill seats on their village boards.
Running unopposed for two-year terms are incumbents Nancy E. Parkhurst for mayor and Linda Randley for trustee. Candidates do not run on party lines.
The mayor salary is $1,802 and trustees are each paid $1,287.
The election is scheduled from noon to 9 p.m. at the Fire House at 1663 Cortland St.
Mayor Reba Taylor, a Republican, is running unopposed for her sixth two-year term, while four candidates are running for two trustee seats.
Trustee candidates are incumbent Republicans Robert Witty and Randy Sterling and Democrat challengers Lisa Valentinelli and Elizabeth Gutchess.
The top two vote-getters will win the seats.
The mayor position pays $7,000 annually, while trustees are each paid $1,500 annually.
Voting is scheduled from noon to 9 p.m. at the Village Hall at 16 South St.
Incumbent Republican Dennis Toolan is running unopposed for mayor and four candidates are seeking two trustee seats
Candidates for two-year trustee terms are Democrats William Hogan and Linda Bonavia, and Republicans Elizabeth Conger, an incumbent, and Jeffrey Evener.
The top two vote-getters will win the trustee seats.
All of the terms are for two years.
Voting is scheduled for noon to 9 p.m. at the Village Offices at 108 E. Cortland St.
Democratic Mayor Mike McDermott is challenged in his re-election bid by Republican Gordon Wheelock. The current salary for the two-year term is $7,000.
Running for two trustee seats are incumbent Republican Genevieve Suits and Democrat Alexandra Salce and Republican Andrew Brush.
The two-year terms each pay $3,000 per year.
Voting is scheduled for noon to 9 p.m. in the Town Hall at 31 N. Main St.
Democratic Mayor John Pitman is running unopposed while candidates for two trustee seats are incumbent William McGovern, a Republican, and Republican Patria McConnell and Democrat William Whitmore. The top two vote-getters will win the trustee seats.
Each seat carries a two-year term. The mayor seat pays $5,400 annually, while the trustees are each paid $1,800.
Voting is scheduled from noon to 9 p.m. in the Marathon Civic Center on Brink Street.
The mayor seat and two trustees are up for election. The terms are two years each.
Incumbent Trustees Allan Stauber and Robert “Raz” Freeman each want to replace Jay Cobb, who is not seeking re-election to the mayor seat, which pays $3,700 annually. Stauber is running on the Citizens Party ballot line and Freeman is running on the Freedom Party ballot line.
Stauber has one more year left on his two-year term. Jeffrey Sherwood of the Citizens Party is the only candidate running for the two open trustee seats.
The trustee posts pay $1,775 each.
Voting is scheduled for noon to 9 p.m. at the Community Building at 15 Clinton St.