WEATHER, March 11th: As ever with sugar season the story is the weather. Yesterday sure felt like a sugaring day: it felt like picnic weather in the sun, snowbanks by the road receded before my eyes, and mud squished around my rubber boots on the lower section of Falls Brook Lane. But it just wasn’t warm enough. Today is cooler and more cloudy. Possibly tomorrow the sap will run…

Chief of Operations comments:

It is going into mid-March and has been over a week with daytime temperatures just above freezing but no real thaw. This has put sugar season on hold and sugarmakers in northern Vermont on edge, wondering when the next run will finally break loose. Day after day we have been on the cusp of a good sap flow, during what has typically been the most productive part of the season.

On Friday we slid open the sap shed door to encourage the March sun to enter and soften the frozen sap in the tanks.

Going three weeks between boils seems like an awfully long wait. To date (3/11) it has been 18 days since the previous boil on 2/21. I began to wonder what was the longest wait we’ve ever had. I’ve never tracked this statistic before and I did a little research, looking at my yearly records going back 43 years starting in 1980. I found waiting up to two weeks quite common, two to three weeks much less common, and only once was the wait over three weeks. Here is the history of the over-two week waits in descending order:

  1. 1997  24 days  3/3 to3/27
  2. 1984  20 days  2/25 to 3/16
  3. 2018  17 days  3/7 to 3/24
  4. 1992  15 days  3/11 to 3/26
    2015  15 days  3/11 to 3/26

It is notable that these were poor production years with the exception of 1992 when we made over a half gallon of syrup per tap.

C of O continues

We had a good snowfall last week, and the snow in the woods has mostly remained powder if you can call it that. It has lost most of its fluff and morphed into a denser form that cakes easily when disturbed, though it has none of the coarseness of corn snow. On a few sunny aspects, a thin airy crust has formed. It’s as fun to ski on as fresh powder, giving the same smooth glide with little grab and better flotation. The photos below show the varied conditions I experienced on Friday skiing around Whiteface Mountain where I was on slopes facing in every direction.

Dense but easy to turn in
Some caking
Sun crust

And more…


It looks like black sand has been sprinkled in the snow. Closer inspection shows some of these specs coming to life, bounding with a short hop into the air. These cold-resistant insects always seem to show themselves congregating in snow pockets during early sugar season as the temperature pokes above freezing.

One of winter’s blessings is the lack of insects, especially the biting ones. I have often been baffled by the exception of these insects, and wondered how they could survive and nourish themselves on the snow in such cold weather. A quick research tells me their bodies contain an anti-freeze protein, and they live in the underlying leaf mold feeding on the organic matter there. In early spring on a warmer day they surface searching for food, and that is the only time you’re likely to see them as they contrast so well with the snow. They don’t bite and can’t fly, but are fond of jumping enabled by a short tail which gives them the other name springtail.


SPRING INTO VERSE: “A poem starts in delight and ends in wisdom; verse starts in delight and ends in delight.” Unknown.

I invite us to play with rhyming verse this year: Rhyme about the sounds, scents, textures, and sights of spring where you live. For inspiration, recall nursery rhymes or silly songs and ditties. Please don’t think hard, just play.

I’ll start us off. The sky is the limit.

An onion slice upon the steps?
Who could have placed it there?
It’s speckled with dirt and griminess,
Abandoned by its carrier.

I left it there, and it’s untouched;
No one has picked it up.
I’ll wait to see if someone else
Wants onions on which to sup.


A mourning dove,
I heard it twice,
Now thrice its oboe call.
It sings o’er yonder
in the field
beyond the trees and all.

It seems to coo
Rise up this day
and calmly get to work.
What signs of spring
do you detect?
Please send me rhyme and verse!

EXTRA-CREDIT READING:!/tour-stop/19205 Note the classic photo of glorious old sugar maple tree hung with multiple buckets.

3 thoughts on “On the Cusp of a Sap Run

  1. I have lived in Vermont my entire life and had never once heard of snow fleas until I walked on the rail trail last week and noticed them. I was describing them to a friend, and she told me what they were. 🙂


  2. Dear Nebraska Knollers-

    As always just LOVE the blogs- this time the snow fleas really delighted me.

    As to the verse about early Spring. I believe in Vermont it is the crow who is the harbinger of early Spring.

    Here on the prairie lands and oak savannas, it the turkey vultures.

    I saw a magnificent pair this morning and when I returned to the car, a poem came to my head:

    Bet you can’t Make up a chant About my slide About my glide I thermal ride

    No surf no snow No board to ride Watch me slice Black winged wild

    I got the culture I’m Turkey Vulture.



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