EXPECT NOTHING. Unfortunately we can’t resist viewing the NOAA and Weather Underground sites to check the forecast. The Wunderground site displays a graph that illustrates the fluctuations in air temp hour by hour. We get our hopes up for a sap run when we see it freezing by 9pm and climbing to 40F. by 1pm the next day. Expectations flourish. We line up crew. Trouble is, the weather stubbornly resists forecasting. Even if it were to cooperate with the forecast, the trees have their own mind and run when they will, which this week is NOT MUCH. We call the crew to take their boots off and stay home.
Even worse, the forecasts this sugar season have appeared ideal a week or so out. These long-range forecasts are just mirages; they vanish like the water on the road up ahead. Still, we skip online from site to site, shopping around.
It has been particularly hard to expect nothing this past week because it is the last week of March and the sap is supposed to run now. It just is.
WEATHER (From the log book):
3/28 Rained most of yesterday, temp 33/34. Collected enough sap today to fill lower tanks only. Temp into 40’s with filtered sun and sporadic rain.
3/29 Discouraging run today, temp just over freezing day and night, clearing late in day, getting colder.
3/30 (No longer from the log book): Storybook sugaring day. Bluebird skies, northwest breeze, chickadees singing Phoebe, Phoebe, dirt softening to mud, snow melting off steep banks. It was the sort of day that resonates through the decades for all of us who have childhood memories of gathering buckets or of boiling.
3/31 Temp range today was 30-32F. By evening it was snowing hard.
HOW’S IT RUNNING? Except for Thursday the 30th, NOT MUCH. On Thursday the sap streamed but it didn’t splash in the tub as it does in the ultimate form of run, the “washing machine” run. By the end of the day, some of the buckets by the house were overflowing.
BOILING STATUS: We had “baby boils” on Tuesday and Wednesday and again today.
SAP SWEETNESS: 2.4%, the sweetest yet. The bucket sap, being from old trees with mature crowns, tasted twice as sweet as the tubing sap, but no one measured its sweetness with the sap hydrometer.
MUSIC TO BOIL BY, or, Partial Playlist for Today’s Hyggelig Boil:
Sweet Honey in the Rock
The Chvrches (Scottish synthpop) (called The Sundays by some of the crew)
Instrumental classics like Dueling Banjos
Elfin Love Tribe (dreamy Celtic harp, etc.)
It seems the younger the crew the more they like the hit music of the ’60’s and ’70’s. I gained some insight into this today when Sarah nostalgically mentioned that her father sang Paul Simon songs to her as a child. ( My father sang You Are My Sunshine to me.)
This week’s VOCABULARY LESSON is excerpted from a story, brought in by crew member Ana, of a sugarmaker on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula whose ancestors were some of the earliest sugarmakers in North America. The language belongs to the Anishinaabee, a collective term for the indigenous people of the Great Lakes region, including the Ojibwe.
NAADOOBII, To Gather Sap
Joe Rose, a Bad River tribal member, pays close attention to the weather during March. He waits for sunny days with snow melt and freezing nights. These conditions signal the movement of maple sap (ziinzibaakwadwaaboo) and the time to work the sugar bush (iskigamizigan). The importance of this season is reflected by the Ojibwe words, ziinibaakwadoke-giizis and onaabani-giizis, which refer to March as the sugar making moon and Apri as the maple sap boiling moon, respectively.
[Since the language is traditionally oral and not written, spelling it out in our alphabet is possibly akin to spelling out bird song. Note the double-vowel system which I don’t know enough about to comment on.]