March 7, 2008
By Joel Banner Baird
Free Press Staff Writer
BELVIDERE — It sounded like a truck letting off its air brakes Thursday in the boiler room of the Green Mountain Maple Sugar Refining Company. Wrong. It was just owner Joe Russo, testing a pneumatic valve cleaner.
At the back of the complex, a big diesel engine drove a generator and rack of torso-sized, water-cooled vacuum pumps. Their combined volume made conversation impossible. But the steam evaporator was quiet; it won’t fire up for a week or so. Sap runs strong but late in Belvidere. Russo moved quickly and easily through a maze that sometimes resembled a submarine’s engine room, sometimes a dairy. He stepped outside and squinted into the brilliant March sun. Shod in snowshoes, a tapping crew of 15 tramped through maple stands, snooping for leaks in the long vacuum lines.