It's a springtime tradition as the sap is running and maple producers are hoping for a few more weeks of successful syrup production.

Sugarhouses dot the landscape this time of year with steam billowing as sap is boiled to create gallons of syrup.

Area sugarhouses will be open March 24-25 for the annual Maple Weekend in New Hampshire, the 23rd annual event where maple producers will highlight their sweet operations and show how the sugaring process is done, from tree tap to final syrupy product.

Maple producers in the region have been dealt many interesting weather blows this season so far, some positive, some not, but all tied in to how the maple season progresses and how much syrup can be produced.

It takes warm days and freezing nights for sap to flow in maple trees. But when temperatures get too high, the season abruptly ends with the appearance of buds on maple trees.

Producers along the coast and in southern New Hampshire had early sap runs during late January and early February, according to Jim Fadden, president of the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association.

Brian Folsom has run his maple business in Chester for 28 years. He said this season has been favorable for the local sap to run.

"It's been good, we had a warm February," Folsom said.

That month was actually historically warm, he added, that helped his production move forward.

"We made more syrup in February than we ever have," Folsom said.

The ideal conditions for sap production require nighttime temperatures in the 20s and 30s, while daytime temperatures in the 40s help liquid run well. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to create just one gallon of syrup.

Having the snow fall can also help with process.

Christopher Hicks, of The Sugarhouse at Morningstar Farm in Plaistow, said current conditions — often warm enough for the sap to run out of the taps and to keep the ground thawed but with some snow cover, often work to his operation's favor.

"This is like putting ice in your cooler," he said.

Hicks grew up near Concord, New Hampshire, watching his grandfather make maple syrup in a small, rustic sugarhouse. He has now produced his own product for about 10 years in Plaistow.

"It's an addiction," the sugar maker said.

For Hicks, this season is running a bit "backwards" when it comes to schedule and production.

"I started tapping trees around Feb. 14, and I'd like to go to the end of April," he said. "The first week we tapped, everything ran beautifully, but then everything dried up."

Hicks has about 6,000 taps on trees in his area, with 100 buckets and also an intricate system of pipe and tubing snaking from tree to tree collecting sap in containers or sending it back to the sugarhouse. He hoped to produce about 500 gallons of syrup this season. Folsom also hoped to produce about the same.

Last year, New Hampshire syrup makers produced about 154,000 gallons; Massachusetts produced about 84,000 gallons according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. All U.S. maple producers, in total, made about 4.2 million gallons of the popular maple product in 2017.

With this week's fourth nor'easter storm dropping more snow on the region, Hicks hoped for more optimal conditions to keep his season going a bit longer.

"You need the freezing nights and the warmer days," he said. "I'm hoping for a few more weeks, and I'm loving all this snow."

Folsom said one often expects Mother Nature to be a bit fickle when it comes to the maple season.

"It's day by day," he said.

Maple syrup lovers will be able to enjoy a long list of maple syrup/sugarhouse activities this weekend. Sugar producers will offer samples, tours of the operation and boiling times, and also special treats like ice cream sundaes, candies and other maple products.

To learn more about Maple Weekend events in New Hampshire, visit New Hampshire Maple Association at nhmapleproducers.com. A directory of Massachusetts sugarhouses can be found at massmaple.org.  

Associated Press information was used in this article.

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