Published by bill on Mon, 02/28/2000 - 00:00
Although night time air temperatures still are making it down into the single digits, teens and twenties, the sun gets higher in the sky every day and the days get longer as spring approaches the Berkshires. We still have 2+ feet of beautiful powder snow all over the fields and in the woods: just perfect for snow shoeing or X-C skiing. Conditions are also excellent at the local downhill ski area (Berkshire East), and the nearby excellent Stump Sprouts X-C area as well.
One of the nice things about being maple syrup makers is that we start thinking spring, when many others are still bemoaning the fact that the groundhog(s) saw his (or her) shadow. For us, this time of year finds us out in the woods on snowshoes, laying out maple syrup pipeline and tying it to the trees we will eventually tap when the time is right. This is no small task, given that we set around 2,500 taps, and each line must go back to exactly the same trees as last year. When we have difficulty laying a particular line out, we often joke that it's because 'the trees have moved.'
In this area, the sugaring month is March, but tapping time is highly variable. Past years have found us tapped by now, and the earliest we have ever boiled since moving to Charlemont 25 years ago, was the 7th of February. Typically, we expect to boil for the first time in late February or early March, and be done before the first week in April. We are told by old timers that many local sugar makers in the early 20th century considered April to be 'the sugaring month', but now it's March, or sometimes, even February. Global Warming or just natural climatic variation??? It's hard to say. Check again in 200 years.
On a sad note, one of our wonderful barn cats (Alicia) passed away recently. She was another 'rescued' cat we adopted from a local animal shelter to provide a mate for the other barn cat, Vega. Vega himself is the last in a long line of barn cats going back to 3 kitties we took from the shelter in 1975. Although he bred Alicia several times over the past 2 years, she never produced babies. This, combined with her untimely death, lead us to wonder if she didn't have some internal problems that we never knew about. We'll miss her a lot.