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April 6, 2014

Maple sugaring season is underway

The calendar says spring is here. Days are getting longer, and every time I get to feel the radiant warmth of the sun beaming down from a glacial blue sky, it sure feels good. 

A lot of us think of early spring as mud season. I prefer to think of it as maple season, a remarkable time of transition. I’ve learned to look beyond the ice, grit, slush and moosh to the buckets hanging on the sugar maples and the gentle mist that rises from the melting snow in the field behind; and to the blue sap lines in the forest beyond, which stands majestically bathed in sunshine and shadow as clouds slowly lumber across the sky.

We’ve all grown weary of the relentless cold, ice and snow. Almost all of the region’s maple syrup producers finished tapping their trees in February, but as I sit down to write this article during the last weekend in March, many, including almost all of those at higher elevations, have still not made any syrup. Some still have sap lines buried under snow.

At lower elevations, sap has run a little. But when it stops, the anticipation begins again as producers wait for empty sap lines to flow or frozen lines to thaw.

Sugaring is weather-related. Production hinges on the freezing nights and daytime thaws. Optimum production occurs when nighttime temperatures fall into the mid-20s and daytime temperatures range in the low 40s, preferably with sunny skies.

When asked whether the late start will affect the overall season, Extension Associate Michael Farrell, regional maple specialist and director of Cornell’s Uihlein Forest in Lake Placid said, “Time will tell. Generally we would have been making syrup by now. Hopefully, we will have several weeks of good sap-collecting weather in April.”

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