Wednesday March 18th 2015
Something happened this week, there was a definite change: Spring has arrived. I used to think that the season of Spring was just about the temperature. True, temperature is a definite part of Spring. But living in this climate has taught me that Spring is so much more than temperature. It is about the light, and more than just straight hours of sunlight. The angle of the sun has changed and maybe it is my imagination but there seems to have been a change in the spectrum, the hues of light are different. The air smells different. And the birds have started to reappear. Bird calls that we have not heard for months are filling the air, greeting us like an old friend. We all feel it. We are all breathing a sigh of relief. We are all calmer. The goats are one again lounging and chewing their cud, relaxed in the sunlight. They seem to know that in about a month fresh green browse will begin to appear for them to dine on again. Spring is called spring because we all have a spring in our footsteps.
After 6 weeks where the temperature remained constantly below freezing and at times went as low as -16F, this week the temperature finally peaked above freezing as the high each day. This is maple sugar country, and the time of year when the sap starts to run. When we first arrived in MA last June, we quickly noticed that Maple sugar was the sweetener of preference in everything. At first we thought it odd, but it did not take us long before we “acquired a taste” for maple syrup, or more truthfully we simply got addicted. Pretty soon ordinary table sugar was passed up and maple syrup took its place in our morning coffee, as the new sweetener of choice in the granola we baked at home, and in pretty much everything that we had formerly used store bought beet sugar for. And by the way, pancakes are simply a vehicle for carrying maple syrup. It is not really about the pancakes, it is all about the maple syrup. We embraced it, justifying our new habit by telling ourselves that this was naturally part of the Go Local culture, we were after all eating sustainably, supporting the local economy. Somehow we managed to ignore the price of this local delicacy ($25 for a half gallon!). At some point we had to face this reality and could no longer remain in denial. Luckily we found a more affordable source, none other that our neighbor who has a sugar house. Since we were now addicted, we thought that it might be wise if we started to learn about how to tap trees (either than or we deplete the bank account as a result of our new habit). Although it won’t happen this year given that we are still setting up our homestead and have more than enough on our plates, maybe next year we can tap the sugar maples at Katywil.
This week the syrup tapping paraphernalia started to appear. Over night it seemed that half the trees along the roads suddenly became adorned with taps. Webs of tubes now run from tree to tree, weaving into the woods. Large plastic collection drums have been installed roadside as the receptacle for all that syrup collected via those lines. The larger commercial operations keep the lines under a vacuum to speed the sap removal and collection, smaller operations simple install the lines at just enough of a pitch that gravity carries the sap from tree to tank. Despite all of this modern technology, the old ways are still alive. Up on Wilson Hill Road where we live the little stainless steel buckets hang from the trees, usually 2 buckets per tree. I am surprised to learn how many of our neighbors tap the trees. It makes me smile to see all these little buckets hanging from the trees.
I close today’s post with this report:
From local news station WWLP =
AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – You’ll remember this February forever. This past February was the coldest February ever recorded in 180 years of record keeping in Amherst.
In Amherst, the average temperature for the month was just 11.2 degrees, about 15 degrees colder than normal. You may never live through another February this cold and it’ll be one to tell your children about.
Only one February that came close to being as cold.
“Before this February the coldest benchmark in the past was 1934 where many locations across the region established cold records for the month of February and we’ve shattered those records,” said Michael Rawlins, Climatologist at UMass. Amherst. Official records in Amherst date back to 1893, while unofficial measurements continue back to 1835.
It wasn’t just the coldest February reported ever here in western Massachusetts, but also in Hartford and Worcester. In Boston it was the second coldest February ever.”