If you make your way to Mapletree Farm this spring to grab some freshly boiled syrup, you might notice something a little different about the sugarhouse. Well, actually, the sugarhouse will look a lot different.
That’s because the old 16-foot by 20-foot sugarhouse, which was built soon after the operation opened in 1975 and slightly expanded in 1995, was moved about 100 feet to the right and back and is now attached to a new 22-foot by 40-foot addition that will greatly enhance not only the production capabilities, but also the educational experience for school groups and those visiting for Maple Weekend.
An expanded sugarhouse had been a long-term goal for Mapletree Farm owners Dean and Meg Wilber.
The original building didn’t have heat, there was no bathroom and in order to have water, the Wilbers had to run a hose from their adjacent home.
“I wanted to have everything in one place,” Dean Wilber said.
So after last year’s maple season came to an end, they got to work on building the much bigger addition. The foundation for where the original sugarhouse would stand was poured in August, with a moving date of September.
Then Meg passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 7. It was not easy to move forward with the project, but it was what Dean thought his wife of 37 years would want.
“We always talked about having a new one before we died,” Wilber said.
It’s been a good distraction for Wilber, working just about every day to get the sugarhouse operational for both the season, and for visitors. After all, this is the time of year when everyone and their grandmother wants to see how sap is transformed into sweet maple syrup.
It won’t be 100 percent done when Maple Weekend rolls around in a little over a week, but it will be more than functional so visitors who make Mapletree Farm a stop on their yearly maple tour will still get to enjoy the experience.
As you may know, the original sugarhouse was a bit tight. With the large evaporator to handle the more than 1,000 tapped trees producing sap, the holding tank, reverse osmosis machine and bottling station, there wasn’t a lot of room for much else – and that included people. That won’t be an issue moving forward.
“The whole thing is designed to be visitor friendly,” he said.
Tours will come in the side garage door into the addition. To your right will be the new 900-gallon holding tanks for sap and the permeate removed during reverse osmosis.
The evaporator is brand new, the fifth since Mapletree opened 43 years ago. The previous one was durable, lasting 22 years.
“Besides just being new, it’s also more efficient,” Wilber said.
You can walk around the evaporator completely and there’s a lot more room for observations when it’s rip roaring at 219 degrees (the temperature needed to make syrup).
Wilber added a bathroom and a kitchen/showroom area with a large refrigerator, commercial oven, sink and bottling station. It’s where folks can check out Mapletree’s products and buy some to take home. It will also add another space for the educational component Wilber does.
“It’s wonderful. Meg would be very pleased,” Wilber said. “This is what she wanted.”
And there’s not only heat now in the building, but also the floor.
“Meg sat out there in that sugarhouse on so many cold days,” he said.
There’s even drainage in the floor for much easier clean up. Fancy, we know.
The outside of the old sugarhouse was replaced to match the addition, and if you didn’t know, you might think it was a brand new building all together.
Up in the cupola, where the steam releases that sweet smell into the air, there are windows from the original sugarhouse.
Wilber put in a new dug well with access to 8,000 gallons of water.
“But I’ll never use that much water,” Wilber said.
And it’s all ADA compliant, down to the new driveway grade.
“We really put a lot of thought into it,” he said.
There’s also a 12-foot by 12-foot wood shed attached and the old wood shed has been turned into a storage garage.
He’s had a lot of help from his partner Robert Saunders, who has helped Wilber for the last nine years in syrup production and now with the expansion project.
“And there’s been more people that have volunteered to come help us than we can possibly use,” Wilber said.
As of late last week, Wilber had about of his taps in and had just completed his first boil of the season. And you better believe he’ll be busy over the next few weeks, with trying to finish little things around the sugarhouse, collect sap and make syrup.
For those of you who have visited Mapletree in previous seasons, it will be a little different not being greeted by Meg. She’s the one that handled a lot of sales and school groups, and always flashed you that big smile.
“I can’t tell you how many jugs of syrup she labeled for me,” Wilber said.
But the sap is still flowing and Wilber knows his late wife would want him to be spending hours on end making syrup.
“Yeah, it was my passion, but she encouraged it,” he said.
For more info, visit mapletreefarmnh.com.