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Tapping into the maple syrup mystique

"I will probably do this all my life," he said. "Because it's just sort of like magic."

Cedarvale Maple Syrup Company in Syracuse has been in operation for more than 20 years, and owner Karl Wiles also referred to the process as a "magical experience where you create a wonderful product out of this colorless sap from the trees."

Wiles claims that there exists a "maple syrup identity" among producers, all of whom are committed to creating an excellent product. What is so appealing to him personally is the sensory part, the "excitement of spring arriving, the crispness of the air when it's 35 degrees and sunny with the wind out of the south."

Two other ideas -- agriculture and culture -- seem important to the lifelong resident of Marcellus.

"Agriculturally, the Northeast is the only place in the world truly suited to maple syrup production," Wiles said. "Culturally, sugaring certainly follows the rich tradition of hard work that originated in New England with the Puritans."

Put all the hard work, excitement, and crisp air aside, and Wiles will tell you that, no matter how tired of the maple syrup routine he gets by the end of each season, the magic always returns when the next season arrives.

Former Syracusan and lawyer David Geurtsen lives with his family in Rodman, N.Y. where he has been making syrup for a few years, and he just built a sugar shack in his front yard to house the boiler he purchased a few years ago.

"Why do you make syrup?" I asked.

An outdoorsman all his life, he said, "Maple season is the mud season -- there is not much else to do in the outdoors. Hunting season is closed, trout season hasn't opened yet, it's too wet to rake, and too cold to plant!"

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