Of mud and maple sap: rites of spring
For the year-round outdoorsman, there are two times of the year that can be the toughest to get through: the holiday season, and the first few weeks of spring. At year’s end, once deer season is over, it’s often hurry up and wait for the snow to fall and/or the ice to thicken so we can move on to the winter fun things like snow sports and ice fishing.
In the spring, it’s just the opposite, but it, too, can involve being a victim of the current conditions – or lack thereof. As I look out the window of my home office there is still plenty of snow on the ground here in the southeastern Adirondacks. And I know there’s even more in other parts of the state, and the Northeast for that matter.
Other than coyote season, the small-game seasons are now closed. Ice fishing becomes less of an option and more dangerous every day. I like to do a bit of cross-country skiing but even that can get sketchy. And our local snowmobile trails are closed as well.
I have a long, 400-foot driveway that is basically a dirt road. As of late it’s been nothing but mud. You’d swear by looking at my old Jeep Wrangler that I’ve been doing some muddin’ lately. But the dirt that is caked on the Jeep and my wife’s vehicle is simply from navigating the driveway. We wash our vehicles and the next day it’s all back.
And so we sportsmen are waiting out the mud season, hoping the ice and snow will melt in time for the April 1 trout opener. Unless there’s a major heat wave, those Adirondack trout ponds are weeks away from ice-out, and even some of the streambanks will be snowbanks for those looking to wet a line. Sure, there are places where this won’t be an issue, but there are just as many where it will be.
So what’s one to do?
About 10 years ago, I got the maple sap bug. My wife got me a basic sap collecting kit for Christmas, and over the years, I’ve added to it little by little. I now tap 13 trees and put my taps out over a month ago. It ran a bit in late February when we got some warm days and I boiled a small amount, which is now gone.
Like the snow, ice and mud, every year is different and this year it looks like the days ahead will be some of the best (we hope). It’s been slow up to this point, but when daytime temperatures get above freezing and the nighttime temps get below, the sap runs well.
I do small amounts on a small propane burner, and when I have more sap, which I anticipate, I fire up the wood stove in my garage for the early evaporation stages. Each year I make about a gallon of maple syrup, often a little less.
So I’m looking forward to a gradual spring warm-up and an equally slow-moving mud season. It will be over before you know it.
Just in time for the trout rods to come out.