By Paul Tennant
Even with snow on the ground, it’s a sure sign that spring can’t be too far away when Paul Boulanger and Kathy Gallagher are out tapping sugar maple trees in North Andover for sap.
The selectmen recently voted to give the couple a five-year permit to tap trees on town-owned property. Last winter, the warmer-than-usual weather prevented Boulanger and Gallagher, proprietors of the Turtle Lane Maple Farm, from producing syrup.
A tree needs a combination of cold at night, followed by warmer temperatures during the day to get the sap flowing.
Last year, the sugar content in sugar maple trees was a pitifully low 1 percent, they said. During a good year for maple syrup, trees will start the season with a 4 percent sugar content, they explained.
This year’s colder and snowier winter has brought about much more favorable conditions for syrup production. Normally, Gallagher and Boulanger tap about 500 trees, on private and town-owned property. They boil the sap at their farm at 25 Turtle Lane to produce the tasty product.
It takes 10 gallons of sap to make a quart of syrup – a lot of boiling. Syrup from Turtle Lane Maple Farm is sold in several locations, including the J & M Convenience Store and Deli at 701 Salem St. and Butcher Boy Meat Market at 1077 Osgood St. in North Andover.
Besides making maple syrup, Boulanger and Gallagher provide tours of their non-profit farm for schoolchildren.