It’s an odd thing to do, drilling a hole in a tree. We do our best to tap judiciously. Blessings, dear sugar maples.


Same late February light,
Same rattling of beech sapling leaves,
Same maple trees,
Same snowshoe route up the hill,
Same brook to cross,
Same tapping ritual,
And the backpack with all the tools weighs the same.

Tap tap tap of the hammer until the pitch changes.



Late February light differs hour to hour,
A new troop of beech leaves rattles this year,
Some maple trees are missing.
Same snowshoe route up the hill: terra firma, thank goodness,
The brook crossing’s a bit lower now,
Different people learning to tap,
The backpack with all the tools?
It feels heavier this year.

Monochromatic. A tapping day typical of this February.

FLOODLIT: Ship masts in harbor puncture the mist.
SPOTLIT: Here is one with a woodpecker hole the size of a softball. Hmmm, the crown looks healthy; last year’s hole has healed. To tap or not to tap?

Playing fort.



Every month since November has offered up some wintry days. The first cold and snow arrived in mid-November, but winter’s thrust moderated in December and fizzled in January. It felt as though we ought to be tapping in January, but how discouraging since we love and need winter – and so do the trees. The specter of climate change haunts us here in northern Vermont as it does everywhere else.

Happily, February has felt and looked more like winter. We started tapping with little snow underfoot but ended with much more, especially at higher elevations. Most days have been mild enough for tapping (above 20 degrees) but not so mild that the sap ran as we tapped. This coming week may warm enough to trigger a sap run.

Sugarbush shadows

“If it has frozen rather hard during the night, the sap will flow next day, but not unless the ardor of the sun is superior to the force of the frost.”

—H.L. Duchamel du Monceau, 1809. Quoted by Helen Nearing in  The Maple Sugar Book, 1950.

This sugar season I want the sun to teach me about ardor.




10 thoughts on “It’s 2020: The Same Only Different

  1. Audrey, I do enjoy your posts. Sugaring season has always been a special time .

    Fivesaps in Bellingham, Ma has tapped and flow has been sporadic. Had a good run last night and will light the fires today. Grandchildren are coming to help out. How many wonderful memories we are making. Good health to all up your way. Rene fleuette Fivesaps Sugar House.

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


    1. Rene, I’m really pleased to hear from you. Just the other day I came across photos of your parents on their annual syrup run from Rhode Island. Today while I clean the sugarhouse I’ll think of you boiling with your grandchildren. It’s a happy image. Wishing you and all at Fivesaps a very fine sugar season. Audrey


  2. Audrey, I just “discovered” your blog! Thinking only this morning that we have turned the corner with longer days and earlier sunrises.


  3. Glad to hear your voice and inspired observations again, Audrey. You celebrate this time of winter, a gift to the rest of us. I so look forward to your first blog of sugaring season.


  4. Whoo hoo, tapping time has come again! Always one of my favorite,earliest harbingers of spring – the Nebraska Knoll
    blog. The sap runs have changed and the birds are confused too. I don’t think a few of the turkey vultures ever went south and many are circling these warm, longer days. The winter robins have started some songs, along with the resident cardinals and titmouse males. We have a wintering Carolina wren couple and the mister has been randomly singing since early January.
    We still have snow pack (5″?) here in Saratoga, but not much further south than here. I see a small sugar house on my way to work has tapped. Look forward to hearing and seeing more from Stowe.


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