I took River Road home from work yesterday, a one lane gravel road twining between the Housatonic River and the Housatonic Railroad, and suddenly remembered mud season. This is less common in New England than it was when I was growing up, not because of climate change but because we are steadily paving our remaining gravel roads. I can remember getting mired to the axles in the deep, clinging mud around this time of year, but there was little danger of that on River Road yesterday with the temperatures just warm enough to send rivulets of snow melt across the frozen road surface. Still, it made me think that despite the very cold week we've been having, it was likely time to tap our backyard maple tree.
I though perhaps I would forgo this annual Spring ritual this year after the sap started flowing on 12th night, but since then we've had two months of frozen earth and the six inch daffodil shoots are buried beneath a crust of snow. Yesterday afternoon, the sun was warm enough to melt the southern exposures of our snow people in the front yard and warm the bark of the sugar maple in the backyard. Emily and Elias and I cleaned the two, galvanized pails, their spiles and covers, and drilled 2 inch holes on an angle six inches away from last year's scars. Now there is the soft and comforting drip of sap into the pail, and in a few days we'll have enough to sugar off the first batch.
We have but one tree, and it yields enough sap to make just under 1/2 gallon of syrup. For us it is the most welcome sign of Spring, even when the snow hides the daffodils. Most folks are focused on the earlier switch of Daylight Savings Time tomorrow morning but as for us, we have already made our Spring forward.