New Hampshire's liquid gold - Maple syrup season off to unusually early start

Jeff Moore of Windswept Maples in Loudon taps trees along Loudon Ridge Road.Jeff Moore of Windswept Maples in Loudon taps trees along Loudon Ridge Road.

By Roger Amsden

FOR THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

The New Hampshire maple syrup season is off to a quick start, thanks to an unusually warm winter.
Jeff Moore of Windswept Maples on Loudon Ridge Road in Loudon says that he and his brother and father, Larry, held their first boil of the season Tuesday, which produced 160 gallons and that they have been collecting sap since last Wednesday.
Yesterday marked their second boil of the season, a marked contrast with last year, when a cold winter kept the operation from getting into full swing until late March.
He said that sap starts flowing when temperatures stay below freezing overnight and rise above freezing during the day with ideal conditions having temperatures ranging from mid-20s at night to the to mid-40s during the day.
"It's quite a bit earlier than last year but there's no such thing as a typical year for making maple syrup," Moore said. "It's all weather dependent."
He says the farm has 8,500 taps and last year made 3,300 gallons of syrup. It has a vacuum system that sucks the sap from the trees as well a reverse osmosis system at its sap house which removes more than half of the water from he sap before it is boiled.
He said that new high efficiency arch for the boiler along with the reverse osmosis system greatly reduces the amount of wood used to boil the syrup down.
"Before the reverse osmosis system was installed, we used 35 cords of wood to produce 3,000 gallons of syrup," said Moore. "Last year, we only used 14 cords of wood to make 3,300 gallons."
Windswept Maples is one of the few remaining major maple syrup producers to continue to use a wood-fired boiler. Most other large producers have switched to oil-fired or natural gas systems.
Moore said that work on tapping the trees started on Jan. 10 this year and that 6,000 had been tapped at the start of the week.
"We've got one orchard left to tap. It's really the most important work we do all year and you have to take your time and do it right. If bacteria grows at the tap site you lose your production much faster," said Moore.
Jim Fadden of North Woodstock, president of the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association, said family records going back to the 1940s show that this year is very unusual with such an early start.
"Typically, maple season doesn't start until around Town Meeting time in mid-March. But over the last 10 to 15 years we've had more early starts than I can remember. This year, farms on the Seacoast and in the Wilton area were boiling in late January. There's even a farm in Lancaster which is starting to boil this week. I haven't started yet, and it looks like the cold weather will be coming back soon and shutting things down."
He said he has about 10,000 trees tapped on Lost River Road and produces about 3,000 gallons a year.
He said last year was a good year for New Hampshire maple producers, who made 120,000 gallons of syrup, compared 112,000 gallons in 2014 and 124,000 gallons in 2013. The year 2012 was a bust, however, with only 76,000 gallons produced.

 Larry Moore of Windswept Maples in Loudon loads wood into the boiler at the farm’s sugar house yesterday. It was the second boil this week for Windswept Maples and one of the earliest starts to making syrup in the farm’s history. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Larry Moore of Windswept Maples in Loudon loads wood into the boiler at the farm’s sugar house yesterday. It was the second boil this week for Windswept Maples and one of the earliest starts to making syrup in the farm’s history. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Steam rises from the evaporator at Windswept Maples in Loudon as they boil the maple sap for the second time this year. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Steam rises from the evaporator at Windswept Maples in Loudon as they boil the maple sap for the second time this year. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Gilford voters restore cuts to nonunion staff, teachers at annual meeting

Few attend deliberative session of School District Meeting, most were staffers or related to Gilford School District

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — Not only did voters at deliberation session of the Gilford School District Meeting on Tuesday return all of the money cut from the proposed school district budget by the Budget Committee, they added an additional $70,000 for an elementary school language arts teacher.

The moves, which were passed overwhelming by hand votes, means a $25,852,759 operating budget will appear on the town warrant for voters to make an yea or nay decision on March 8. The default budget is $25,688,824, which is lower by $163,935, and would go into effect if the proposed budget is voted down.

In reviewing the proposed school district budget, the public body added $115,508 for the other 1.5 percent of a proposed 3 percent merit raise for the nonunion members of the school district staff that had been cut by the Budget Committee. In addition, they added $15,000 longevity pay for administrators, $8,000 for professional development and training and $12,900 for maintenance. An additional $3,363 was returned to the budget for a variety of smaller miscellaneous items. All of these had been cut by the Budget Committee during its four-month review process.

Those attending the deliberative session also added an additional $70,000 for a language arts teacher for the elementary school. Chairman Karen Thurston said yesterday that language arts in the elementary school has been a recurring topic of discussion at the board and she said it would be up to the superintendent and elementary school administration to decide on a course of action.

Following the deliberative session, the Budget Committee convened and voted 9 to 1 not to recommend passage of the budget as revised by the people, with School Board representative Karen Thurston voting against.

Chairman Kevin Leandro said Wednesday that "it is a shame an organized body could add that much money," indicating that most of the people who came to the meeting were employees of the school district and their supporters. He also bemoaned the other people in the community who told members of the Budget Committee their taxes were too high but who didn't attend the deliberative session.

"This is why all people need to participate," Leandro said, adding that there were about 50 people total in attendance.

He said the Budget Committee was expecting the voters to return the money it cut for the nonunion staff raises and said he was personally ready to support that move.
He encouraged voters, "despite the fact that we know the default budget is artificially inflated and fraudulently prepared," to vote no on the town budget and let the default budget become next year's budget because it is about $200,000 lower.

"It's time to bring fiscal sanity back to the Gilford School District," he said.

Thurston said yesterday that she feels comfortable with the budget and said what the board was really hoping for was the reinstatement of the nonunion pay cuts.

"In my opinion, I was very disappointed with all of the name-calling and accusations," said Thurston. "We are not liars and we don't pad out budgets."

She said the argumentative and bully by certain members of the Budget Committee are not the kinds of examples the elected members of the community should be setting for the students. "I feel that Scott [Isabelle] and Kent [Hemingway] are owed an apology," she said.

"I feel the Budget Committee has an important role but we should be working together for the benefit of the school," Thurston said. "Our town wants to see us working together."

Following the deliberative session, the School Board voted 5 to 0 to recommend the final School District budget.

Voters will have their say when the budget and other warrant articles are presented on Election Day, March 8, at the Gilford Community Center.

Gilmanton Year-Round Library changes request for funding to a two-year plan in warrant article

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — The newest version of the Year-Round Library petitioned warrant article is for $47,500 for two years.

The change came because there was no public hearing held on the original petitioned article that called for spending $50,000 a year for three years. Without that public hearing, said Selectman Don Guarino, the warrant article would have been invalid if it passed.

Guarino and Budget Committee member Stan Bean both said they attended a meeting held just before the annual Deliberative Session of Town Meeting with town attorney Laura Spector-Morgan, who advised them to reduce the amount to under $100,000, which would waive the requirement of the public hearing.

Both Guarino and Bean said they all agreed this was the best way to approach it and there was no contention about the solution. Both said there was some discussion about changing it to $33,000 a year, but the library representatives said that isn't enough to operate.

Gilmanton Year-Round Library Board Chairman Chris Schlegel made the motion to change the warrant article on the floor where it was seconded and passed by a voice vote.

Guarino said because the proposed agreement lasts two years, it will still need a three-fifths vote to pass at the ballot on March 8.