A preview of spring weather this week has felt like a 70-degree temperature swing from just a few days ago when parts of northern New England felt like 20 below zero or colder during those brutal wind chills.
Deep in the woods of Starksboro, Vermont Tuesday, maple syrup producer James Zeno was making the most of the sudden shift to spring-like temperatures.
“It’s nice to be outside,” Zeno said.
His Zeno Family Sugarworks has 30,000 maple taps and a sophisticated system that helps him draw sap from the trees.
Sap only starts running in milder temps, so when the forecast called for 50s for much of Vermont, Zeno knew he’d be busy.
“This is a bonus for us,” Zeno said of the pre-season sap run.
The storage tanks in the sugarhouse are already filling up. Zeno said the operation collected 15-18,000 gallons of sap Monday and early Tuesday.
The family will soon boil that sap way down into Vermont’s sweetest product, maple syrup, for their mostly-wholesale business.
Thaws like this, lasting just a few days, help sugar makers get to their needed repairs and ensure all their equipment is operating efficiently—ahead of the prime time for maple season next month.
“It gives us a chance to iron out all of our kinks,” Zeno said of the work now being done to check taps, tubing, and pipeline output.
Maple sap collection was just one way Vermonters took advantage of temperatures more than 20 degrees above average for the date.
Near the University of Vermont green in Burlington, necn spotted a man driving his convertible with the top down.
“Sun’s out–take it off,” the driver said of the roof of his car.
In neighboring Winooski, a city that’s seen 70 or so inches of snow this season, there has been a noticeable melt-down of snow banks and frozen sidewalks, with melted snow and ice flowing into city storm drains.
On the Burlington waterfront, joggers and walkers were out Tuesday.
Sisters Mishel and Iris Kondi were sharing a swing on the city’s boardwalk and said they were stunned at a huge reversal: air that felt 70 degrees warmer than that brutal cold and wind late last week.
“I’m glad to see sunshine again,” Mishel Kondi said. “But it doesn’t feel like it should be this dramatic.”
Back at the sugarhouse, Zeno said he is grateful for this February rush of sap and is eager for much more when spring approaches for real.
“We’re hoping for a good year,” the sugar maker told necn.