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Making Maple Syrup | Yankee Classic

Fairfield is one of the biggest maple-syrup-producing towns in Vermont. Most likely that is because of the Howrigans. Robert and his sons are not the only Howrigans who make syrup. Robert’s two brothers and their offspring also do a keen business. The Howrigan clan is a close family, and the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day here rivals Christmas.

Still, they don’t tell each other how many gallons they make each year. Nor will they say how many trees they’ve tapped. Their father used to advise them not to share that information with anyone. “You do that, and it’ll depress the price!” he told them. And so they don’t, not even with each other. It’s a friendly competition but a competition nonetheless. “I always tell people, ‘We made enough for the house and some to sell,’ ” Robert Howrigan says. And he laughs his merry Irish laugh.

From the sugarhouse Shelley walks across the road to the house. Inside, her father-in-law is still in the rocker, Annah fast asleep in his arms. Sitting as he is, in the strong March sunlight, his lids are heavy, too.

Seven generations. Annah is the last for Danny and Shelley, whose oldest child is now a teenager. Another maple season is coming to an end. It is nearly the turn of the century, and Robert Howrigan’s 75 years in the sugar bush are on the wane. But here is Annah. “Sweet child,” Robert Howrigan says, getting up to place her gently into her crib.

Excerpt from “’This New England,” Yankee Magazine, March 1999.

Updated Monday, February 11th, 2008

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2 Responses to Making Maple Syrup | Yankee Classic

  1. Warren Phelps February 21, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    Being originallly from Connecticut and seeing my mother tap a maple tree in Avon, Conn. as a child, it makes me long for Vermont. I have been there several times and would live there if I could afford a good warm house and a fireplace or cast iron stove. Several years ago, I spent several days with Montpelier as home base and drove to various towns of interest. On my way back south I felt as if the river beside the highway was offering me a race to the bottom. Stories of winter hardships overcome and maple sugaring are a delight for me, now living in Missouri. Thank you for this awesome website!
    Warren Phelps

  2. Karen Beaudreau March 23, 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    I live right here in Vermont, the southern end. I can relate to maple sugaring. My husband and I tapped some trees at his parents property,( maybe 5 years ago back when propane was $6.00 a fill ) and we brought it back to our place to boil it on a propane burner with a high pressure regulator,and when we boiled it down far enough we brought it in the house and finished it off on the stove. I really like the darker maple syrup it has more of a maple flavor. I always like to read articles on sugaring Thank You Karen Beaudreau

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