Story and Photos by Corinna Lothar
Hampshire in winter is a fine place to visit, and a visitor isnt
snowbound even though the drifts are often over a man's head. The roads
are plowed as necessary and even the side roads, though snow-packed,
are easy to negotiate. Parking is no problem.
The Maple sugarhouse at Kearsarge Gore Farm
Most Americans know New Hampshire for its first-in-the-nation
presidential primary every four years, when the candidates joust for
early advantage in their quest for the presidential nominations of their
parties. Concord is the capital, but Manchester is the largest city.
The size of the New England states puts nearly everything within an
New Hampshire has lots of open space, of forests of
maple trees that yield sugar sap in the early spring and give way to
an easy, lazy summer and a blaze of color in the autumn. There are lakes
for boating and fishing, mountains for climbing and skiing, villages
for antiquing. The landscape is dotted with graceful 18th and 19th century
houses, usually painted as white as the snow, and the steeples and towers
of the Congregational church meeting houses poke through the tops of
the elms and oaks in nearly every town and village. New England, someone
once said, looks exactly like visitors want it to look.
When the sap begins to rise, maple farmers get going.
The season is short, usually from the last part of February through
March, the length depending on the weather. For the sap to run best,
cold nights preferably with temperatures in the 20s and
afternoon temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees are ideal.
Sap bucket on tree at Mapletree Farm
Maple syrup is native to North America, an edible that
for once was not brought over by European settlers. Explorer journals
from the early 17th century mention the Indian process of making maple
sugar. Between 40 and 50 gallons of sap are required to make a gallon
of syrup. The colorless sap is 97.5 percent water, 2.4 percent sugar
and 0.1 percent mineral. The color and flavor of the syrup are determined
by the freshness of the sap and the time and temperature its boiled.
Dean Wilber with sample bottles of syrup at Mapletree
Evaporator at Kearsarge
Forty-three gallons of sap with a sugar content of 2
percent are required to make one gallon of syrup; 42 gallons of water
boil off as steam (which makes a steamy, sweet sugar shack a bit of
pure heaven in the high season). The process is relatively simple: the
sap is drawn into a large tank from which it is piped into the evaporator,
there to be boiled down. Its then filtered into the familiar glaze
Maple syrup is graded by color, flavor and clarity.
Theres no difference in quality between grades A and B. The grade
and color are determined by the amount of boiling time, which in turn
is determined by the content of the sap itself.
Grade A is made from early season sap when the sugar
content is highest, requiring the least amount of boiling to obtain
density. Its lighter in color and in flavor than grade B syrup,
which is both dark in color and more robust in flavor. Grade B is made
at the end of the season when the sap has a low sugar content. It can
take as many as 75 to 100 gallons of sap to make one gallon of Grade
B syrup. Maple cream is a byproduct of the refining process; it contains
no cream but makes a creamy perfection as a spread for toast. Its
made by heating light amber maple syrup to a prescribed temperature,
then rapidly cooling and stirring until it is creamy.
Sample bottles of different grades of syrup
In the woods above East Concord, Dean Wilber is getting
ready for the Maple Festival weekend, March 19, when his Mapletree Farm
will be open for visitors to watch the making of syrup and maple cream.
Mr. Wilber has been making maple syrup since he was 7 years old, helping
on his grandfathers farm. Hes not a farmer, but cant
resist making the syrup each year.
Buckets and wood piles at
Mapletree Farm produces about 200 gallons in a good
year. Thirty years ago, Mr. Wilber planted sugar maple seedlings so
there will be trees for the next generation; these trees have just started
to yield sap. The Mapletree sugarhouse, sometimes called a sugar shack
or saphouse, is pristine with shiny steel tanks and trays. Mr. Wilber
and his wife, Meg, patiently explain the sugaring process and the new
machines they recently purchased to increase yield. Mr. Wilber points
out the different hues of the finished product, shows the stacks of
hardwood used to heat the boiler and demonstrates how the pipelines
and buckets are attached to the trees, and how the sap makes its way
into holding tanks.
During the short season, the sugarhouse is open for
tours, but the Wilbers welcome guests all year round. Be sure to call
first. The Maple Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March
19, when visitors can learn about the process; sample syrup, maple cream,
maple candy and maple covered nuts; examine such old-time artifacts
as wooden sap buckets, a large wooden sap gathering tank, an English
tin filter can, antique sap spouts, old syrup jugs and tins, and maple
candy molds. The Wilbers sell their products either directly from the
farm or by mail-order all over the world.
Near the small town of Warner, Robert Bower and Jennifer
Ohlers Kearsarge Gore Farm is a different kind of farm. The Bowers
are organic farmers and make their living not only with the maple syrup
from their 1,500 or so trees, but also from the fruits, vegetables and
lambs they sell at the farmers market in Warner in all but the
The Bowers in front of their
Although still small, their operation is slightly larger
than Mapletree, as their annual output is about 250 gallons, which they
sell at the farmers market in Warner. The Kearsarge Gore Farm
saphouse is tucked into the trees; it makes a more rustic, less formal
appearance. Although the Bowers farm is not open to the general
public per se, visitors are welcomed by the Bowers and their young dog
Charlie, a small terrier (who doesnt know hes small) with
a big bark who will be counted on to keep the coyotes away from the
lambs. He must learn not to follow the coyotes into the deep woods,
however, lest he become a coyotes breakfast or lunch.
The village of Warner has great charm, enhanced by graceful
old houses, some dating from the late 18th century. Theres an
Indian museum with a collection of baskets, canoes, beadwork and other
artifacts, and a telephone museum featuring displays of antique telephones
and telephone equipment, including a replica of Alexander Graham Bells
first telephone. Downtown Warner includes a first-rate bookshop
and a couple of attractive small shops.
A few miles from Warner, in Bradford, three country
inns offer special activities for the Currier & Ives Maple Sugar
Weekend on March 18 to 20. The two-night package at the Rosewood Country
Inn, the Candlelite Inn and Henniker House includes a mapped, self-guided
tour of neighboring sugarhouses and a progressive dinner with hors doeuvres
at the Henniker House overlooking the Contoocook River, entrees served
fireside at the Rosewood Country Inn, and dessert at the Candlelite
Inn. Guests can complete the day of touring with a sleigh ride across
the river and into the woods. The sleigh rides are available into spring,
If visitors to the area get hungry during a day of touring,
theres the Everyday Café in Contoocook (pronounced Kentuckuck)
where two young immigrants from New Orleans prepare delicious
breakfasts and lunches. This year they decorated the café with
Mardi Gras beads and regalia, unexpected lagniappe
as they call a little something extra in Louisiana. The
café is next door to a shop where all sorts of old-time treasures
can be unearthed.
Concord began as a trading post dating back to 1660.
The locale gained notoriety at the end of the 17th century when Hannah
Dustin was abducted by Penacook Indians in a raid on Haverhill, Mass.,
and escaped by scalping her sleeping captors. Main Street retains many
late 19th and early 20th century buildings, with a good selection of
restaurants, including an Egyptian one, a well-stocked bookshop connected
to a Viennese pastry shop. The town celebrates several festivals throughout
the year, such as a fall pumpkin festival and a newly inaugurated spring
green tradition festival. The city is home to the McAuliffe-Shepard
Discovery Center, said to be New Englands largest air and space
museum. Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut in space, was born
just a few miles down the road at East Derry.
Driving south from Concord to Manchester, a visitor
marvels at the block upon block of contiguous red brick buildings along
the Merrimack River. The mile-long rank of onetime textile mills that
covered more than 8 million square feet produced some 5 million yards
of cloth each week to be shipped from the mills, which thrived from
1830 to 1920. Today, the mills are used for other industries, for offices,
and for a few restaurants.
Ice cream soda advertisement on Elm Street
exhibit in Millyard Museum
Mill No. 3 has been converted into a small museum. The
Millyard Museum offers visitors the opportunity to glimpse into the
life of the millworkers at the Amoskeag Millyard. It was not an easy
life: the work was difficult and dangerous; children as young as nine
worked fourteen hour days, six and a half days per week, with time off
on Sunday mornings to go to church. Their lithe, little fingers were
needed to work the intricate looms, and many little fingers were lost
in the unforgiving machinery.
The museum exhibits early native American tools, pottery
and fishing techniques, as well as the history and development of the
textile industry. Looms and samples of the cloth produced are part of
a permanent exhibit entitled Woven in Time 11,000 years
at Amoskeag Falls. Theres a section devoted to General John
Stark (the American Revolution general who uttered New Hampshires
motto, Live free or die) who grew up in what is now Manchester,
and a delightful reconstruction of Manchesters main Elm Street
as it appeared on Thursday nights, payday for the mill workers.
Special exhibits are held in the State Theatre Gallery.
Since this year marks the 10th anniversary of the museum, a special
Birthday Party will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April
9th. The days program will include a living history presentation
entitled Meet the Reveres: Paul & Rachel Revere Ride Again.
Actors portraying the Reveres will recall episodes in their lives during
and after the Revolution, with the audience invited to ask questions
after the talk, scheduled for 1: 30 p.m. The museum is an excellent
and educational treat for children.
Manchesters principal museum is the Currier Museum
of Art, housed in an elegant beaux-arts building. The museum has a fine
collection of European and American art, representing major artists
from around the world, and a collection of American furniture. The collection
is not large, but each painting and object is first rate, be it a Marisol
wooden family group or the exquisite Childe Hassam Goldfish Window.
Theres a lovely exhibit of American and French 19th century glass
The Currier also offers temporary exhibits. Coming up
later in March is a retrospective of native son Jon Brooks, famous for
his imaginative, poetic and often whimsical sculpture and furniture.
The Brooks exhibit, A Collaboration with Nature, will run
from March 19 to June 12 and will include more than 40 of Brooks
key pieces from the late 1960s to the present.
Jon Brooks' True Love Blue
The Currier operates the Zimmerman House, one of Frank
Lloyd Wrights Usonian houses houses designed with cost
in mind, without attics, basements and limited ornamentation. The house
was built in 1950 for Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman and contains original
built-in and free-standing furniture, textiles and landscaping, as designed
by Wright. Its the only residence designed by Wright in New England
that's open to the public. The house is open from April to December.
Manchesters Palace Theatre, built in 1915 and
known for its fine acoustics, has been restored and is now the New Hampshire
Performing Arts Center, home of the New Hampshire Symphony and the Opera
League of New Hampshire.
Manchester airport is the gateway to the southern part
of the state, and Concord lies only 25 miles north. Theres a lot
of early American history in the area; the mountains, the bit of seacoast,
the small towns and villages are not far away. In the warmer months,
the Cantebury Shaker Village, a few miles north of Concord, is open
for visits. The Village has 25 restored original buildings, the oldest
dating to 1792 when the Village was established. South of Manchester,
near Derry, lies the Robert Frost Farm where the poet lived from 1900
to 1911; the restored turn of the century house is open to the public
in the summer.
Maple syrup sign
Maple syrup is a sweet treat the year round, even if
syrup-making is winters work. In early autumn, New Hampshires
apple orchards become a tourist lure. Whatever the season, New Hampshire
Currier Museun of
House Bed & Breakfast
Kearsarge Indian Museum
Island's Culinary Museum, Maine:
Rugged and Friendly, Canada