The beginning of February marked the official halfway point of winter, though you sure wouldn't know it around these parts. With regular swings in temperature bringing us up over the freezing mark, and rain and fog being weekly occurrences, it's been feeling like spring sprung early this year, and winter never really arrived at all. Consequently, we have been hearing lots of questions from concerned maple fans who are worried about the unusual winter and it's potential impact on the syrup season.
Typically, winter is a time of hibernation for the maple trees. Sugar makers usually begin harvesting sap as winter wanes (usually around the beginning of March) when freezing nights give way to warmer days, creating ideal conditions for sap flow. This year, we have been experiencing these freezing and thawing trends steadily throughout January and February without much in the way of a consistent freeze. As usual, when it comes to attempting to predict Mother Nature, the impacts of this winter on the syrup season at this point are unknown. It would seem that all signs are pointing to an early season, but it all depends on the weather. And even the weather forecasters admit they're only right 50% of the time.
And so, heeding Wiarton Willie's prediction, we have started our preparations for the 2012 season. We began tapping on Valentines Day, Tuesday, February 14th. The sap was running some that day, and even more the following day, but it was "no flood", according to my Dad. He also collected a pail full of the sap to test, and the sugar content was good -- higher than it sometimes is in the beginning of the season. And hopefully, he says, it will get even better as the season progresses. The lack of snow makes it easy to get around in the woods, we don't need snowshoes this year. But it does mean that the animals have remained active and have damaged our tubing more than usual, so we've got lots of work to do!
Unfortunately, we are sold out of last year's syrup and the sugarhouse will be closed while we continue to tap the trees and prepare for the upcoming season. Please continue to check the blog for more updates; the countdown to that delicious first run syrup has begun!