Monday, February 20, 2012

Early Spring

Our spring chores have begun early this year. It is still winter by the calendar but thelight has change, the days grow a little longer and it just feels like an early spring. A sign of the strange winter we have had here in Maine. Winter was late to arrive, barely sat down for a cuppa tea before it decided to leave.

Temperatures have been warm and the snow fall has been scant. It is always tough to admit that I might actually enjoy this season as it is. It sure has made our winter easier. We did not have to start our trek from the road to our house, about a 1/4 mile, until January. Last year we were trekking in in early December. We have used much less wood than last year. In general, the way of our life has been easier than last winter.

But there is always a flip side. The flip side is that mud season has arrived VERY early. For us this means that the road we live on has suffered that ravages of frost and thaw. It is all rutted up. The town posted the road a full month earlier than last year so that large trucks can not travel on the road. The early mud season could mean one of two things. Mud season could be short. Perhaps the road will dry early this year and the town will have it grated by the end of March. Or mud season will last a lot longer and we will be trekking in from the pavement, about 2 miles or so, for a lot longer than we had to last year.

The warmer weather has meant that we are tapping our trees for maple syrup earlier than ever before. Usually we tap our trees that last full weekend in February. Maine has a school vacation the week before. Mark is usually home so we take some time to organize our supplies and boiling operation before he goes back to work. With the warm days and cold nights we have been having we decided that perhaps the sap would be running already. We could have a short season and miss out on getting enough syrup to put up. Last year we put in 30 taps and we were able to get 4 gallons of syrup. It lasted until December. Last year was an unusually good year. Two weeks ago we put in 15 taps. The sap has really started to run this weekend so we will put 15 more in this week.

At the same time we start sugaring I also start pruning our apple trees. I am still learning how to take care of the orchard. Last year I only got four of the twelve trees pruned. Sugaring season was that crazy. After the pruning the trees put out a lot of apples last year. I was a bit timid in the pruning last year. A pruning class I took a couple of years ago suggested pruning 30% of a tree that has been abandoned. Last years trees lost 30% using only hand tools; loppers, hand pruners and a hand saw. This year those 4 trees will have the chain saw taken to them to open up the top of the tree. This will allow more airflow and sunlight to get into the interior of the tree. It will also make it easier to harvest apples that are not 50 feet in the air. Mark will help me with that part of the chore this week. In the meanwhile I prune the other trees with a little help from Evan and Cheddar dog. The snow on the ground is just high enough for Evan to climb into a tree or two. So the first day we were in the orchard pruning, Evan picked up small twigs that fell to the ground from pruning and brought them over to his tree to build a bird's nest. Cheddar dog offer his help as well by sneaking sticks to chew.

It always makes the chores of spring easier when you have help like this:)

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