A Warm Winter. Mud and Maple Sap.

There is one truth known to all farmers about a good, cold winter.  The ground will be hard and your pastures will be protected.  I’ve even heard of frozen ground referred to as “poor man’s concrete.”

When the ground thaws, and it rains a lot (like we have had recently), you have mud.  And lots of it.  When taking hay out to pasture to feed the cattle, the skid-steer tears up the turf. The cattle stomp themselves a swamp.  And trucks that find recently dug ditches, well, they get stuck.  Yes, that’s me with my stock trailer finding an unmarked trench we dug for a gas line.  Hangups like that set you back half a day when you have to figure out how to drag out a 20,000# truck and trailer.

But on the production side, the thawing of the ground also means that the maple sap starts to run.  This year, I had talked to guys who were collecting sap in January already.  That’s unusually early. The maple season is usually predictable as Feb 20 to March 20, with some years going as late as early April.

The sap in a maple tree flows freely when you have freezing nights and then thawing days.  The freeze overnight will produce a fresh supply the next day. The supply eventually dries up if no further freeze comes.

This year, the sap has been extra “wet.” Aden Keim, who collects sap at both Wholesome Valley Farm and his home property, was explaining that he had very low yields this year.  The ratio of gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup was almost 60 to 1.  That’s a lot of water in the sap!

This year the maple syrup ran strong last week and dried up this weekend with the chill.  Producers are looking forward to a warm Monday and expecting to boil again.  We will see.  Earlier this week Aden said he heard the “spring peepers.”  That’s a toad.  Old timers say that when the spring peeper can be heard, that spring is arriving and maple syrup season is over.  – Trevor