Nothing but sweet syrup memories

THOMPSON, Ohio – It was enough to make wallpaper peel from the kitchen walls. But that didn’t stop little Chuck Lausin from boiling kettles of sap in his mother’s kitchen.

And although it tasted more like molasses, he kept trying to get his recipe for syrup just right. Even if it meant his mother’s kitchen walls were stripped of their pretty flowered wallpaper.

Although this maple syrup entrepreneur was only in second grade, he was already tapping trees in his backyard.

With the help of leftover equipment and lots of experiments, Chuck was up to 300 taps by the time he was old enough to drive a car.

But then he got married, had children and got busy on his family’s dairy farm in Thompson, Ohio. His childhood hobby was no longer a priority.

Back to business. As the years went by, the maple syrup bug crept back to Chuck. It didn’t help that his wife Linnie had also been a childhood syrup producer, boiling sap in her mother’s kitchen, and was anxious to get back to the hobby.

So Chuck and Linnie began tapping a neighbor’s trees and then their own. Now they’re at 1,000 taps and have the entire family involved.

‘Watch it steam.’ A thin layer of sap remains in the evaporator and Chuck brings it to life, showing how fast it turns to thick, white clouds of steam.

“Watch it steam,” he says anxiously. “Just watch. A little longer and it’ll really get going. Watch.”

Meanwhile, Linnie whispers with a smile, “Bigger boys just have bigger toys. He’s like a little boy in this sugarhouse.”

From the inside, the sugarhouse seems like any other – a large evaporator, wooden walls and the lingering smell of syrup.

But from the outside, it is very different. It isn’t nestled into the middle of the woods. Instead it’s next to the Lausins’ house, in a pole building that is also home to some of the farm’s machinery. No more late nights trudging home from the woods during sugaring season for the Lausins. Instead they walk next door and can be in bed by 11 p.m.

A man once told them that taking the sugarhouse out of the woods also takes the romance out of sugaring. But the Lausins beg to differ.

“From the outside it might not look like a sugarhouse, but you wouldn’t know the difference from the inside,” Chuck said.

Family affair. Family help and a love of syrup is what keeps the hobby going.

Even though the Lausins’ son Robert doesn’t like eating syrup, he loves helping to make it. And from mid-February to the first of April, the Lausins’ children and grandchildren are always giving a hand at the sugarhouse.

The family uses buckets and gathers the syrup by hand. They take it to dumping stations located through the woods and pump it to the receiving station on a truck. An old bulk tank near the sugarhouse stores the syrup.

When the Lausins aren’t running haggard during sugaring season, they are busy on the 150-cow dairy they operate with Chuck’s brother, son and nephew. Robert and Joseph Lausin are the fifth generation on the dairy. They’re also busy farming 650 acres of corn, small grains and hay.

Grade A. Whether it’s over vanilla ice cream or cake, on cottage cheese or slow-baked into baked beans, there’s always a reason for syrup, according to the Lausins. Their grandson Bobby even drinks it like cola.

The Lausins aren’t the only ones who enjoy their sweet nectar. They won the county’s best maple syrup producer award in 1987 and were inducted into the hall of fame last year.

It shouldn’t be a surprise: Chuck’s always been an A student when it comes to his syrup.

In one of his earliest school assignments, his first-grade teacher handed out manilla paper and told her class to draw whatever they wanted.

Little Chuck Lausin drew trees with buckets. He set the precedence for his future in syrup: He got an A.

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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