Sunday, January 18, 2004

Sap-happy workers tap trees

By Anna Michael
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Jen Sayatovic of Hyde Park puts a spigot in a maple tree as Ed Westerkamp West Chester hangs a line.
(Tony Jones photo)
ANDERSON TWP. - Syrup soon will be flowing in Anderson Township.

Thirty people, including family, friends and curious residents, came out in Saturday's freezing rain to help tap 800-plus maple trees on the Motz family farm on Clough Pike.

Only 300 of the trees are on the Motz property, but 21 neighbors have given the Motzes permission to tap their trees for a small fee - a couple of bottles of their Clough Valley Maple Syrup.

"It works on a sharecropper basis," said Matt Motz, owner of the farm.

The Motz syrup business began in 1994 with six trees, one drill and some milk jugs. Bart Motz, Matt's son, said he initially decided to tap the trees because he always worked with older people who produced homemade products.

But it was Matt Motz, 61, and his cousin, Edmund, 78, who took the business from a stove in the kitchen to a $5,000 cooking machine in an authentic sugar shack in the back yard.

"They decided we could go really big with it," Bart said.

And they did.

Last year the Motz farm produced 325 gallons of syrup, which requires an enormous amount of sap because the reduction ratio of sap to syrup is 50 to 1. "It takes one barrel of sap to make one gallon of syrup," Matt said.

In a single day last year 1,600 gallons of sap was collected.

"We were cooking away as it came in," Matt said. "We ran full-tilt for almost 24 hours."

Getting the sap from the trees and then to a holding barrel is the hardest part, Matt said.

More than 6 miles of tubing is used to transport the sap. Matt Motz described it like a vein system with many tubes each sloping downward to a single catch basin, just outside the sugar shack.

The labyrinth of tubing is permanent, so each winter all that needs to be done is drilling holes in the trees and plugging them with a spigot, called a spile.

And there is always plenty of help when it comes time to tap the trees.

"(The weather) is ideal for hiking," said Matt Gartner, who traveled from Edgewood, Ky. for the third year to participate. "It's nice, but I wish it wasn't raining."

The tapping of trees will continue into mid-March. For information about buying syrup, available at $9 a pint, or to tap trees call 232-2344.

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