At Little Farm, three weeks ago the snow gauge in our side yard recorded 19 inches of snow on the ground, and we were enduring a weekend of 20°F below zero temperatures with an even chillier wind chill. It appeared that the groundhog had definitely not seen its shadow this year!
And yet, two weeks ago, the temperatures rose into the 40’s during the day but stayed below freezing at night – perfect weather for beginning our 2023 maple syrup production. And so Joe tramped from maple tree to maple tree in the snow and put in 78 taps, and we both hung a jug on each one to catch the sap. In fact, we collected over a hundred gallons of sap in those first couple of days! Even now it is simmering in our evaporator pan, the steam rising as the water evaporates and the sap slowly begins to morph into syrup.
Here in Maine, we expect such weather inconsistencies this time of year, and as small batch syrup producers, we are on the lookout for the first signs of perfect syruping weather. These seasonal changes fascinate me, less because of the extremes and more because of the subtle shifts that are occurring, unnoticeable because they happen in places hidden to us.
In the days ahead, the weather is apt to be blustery at times. I will wear mittens and a wool hat. A fire will still be burning in our woodstove, and we will hear the weather forecast predicting another 8 inches or so of snow later in the week. Yet, through it all, though you cannot hear it and the only way you can see it is as it drips into a jug, the sap is flowing. The trees are coming to life, heralding another spring. For me, the drip of maple sap into a jug is the first sign of spring and warm weather ahead.
In the weeks to come, early perennials will begin to wake up. Only a few short days after the snow has melted near a warm foundation, crocuses will bloom, not giving a hoot that the rest of yard still sits under a foot of wintry mix. It is hard to imagine that, come August, most of us will be complaining about how hot we are. Our sunflowers will be ten feet tall and blooming. The tomatoes and pole beans will be ready to harvest. We will eat dinner on our deck and watch as ruby-throated hummingbirds raid our nectar feeders.
All of creation is astounding – and the seasonal changes that bring us from winter to summer here Maine are no exception. And to think that it all begins in February when the maple sap begins to flow!