A delicate lacy trim has been left on the maple leaves, now rusty brown and caught in the grass--left there last fall, and held by winter's snows.
Through the dark outlines of the trees, I can see patches of white, still scattered against the dim background of the woods.
Across the road, fog has settled into the lower fields.
And a pink sun slowly lights the landscape in what will be another cloudless sky.
Everything is just perfect—for sap.
"Sugar weather," what maple syrup producers call the period in the spring characterized by freezing nights interspersed with mild, sunny days, varies geographically, and from year to year. And, for those who wait, drill in hand, to tap their trees, it is a season that is sensed, more than plotted on a thermometer or circled on the calendar. The heaviest cold has passed, and the thaw has begun. For a moment, the earth hesitates, poised at the cusp of spring.
It is believed, that, at temperatures below freezing, negative pressure develops within the wood, drawing liquid from the roots, into the tree. Then, as the dark bark of the tree is warmed by the sunshine of a mild spring day, the pressure inside the wood becomes greater than that outside. This positive pressure acts to press the sap out, through a taphole, if one has been drilled. That evening, if the thermometer dips below freezing, the cycle will begin again.
Because the flow is so dependent upon this daily rise and fall in temperature, the length of season may vary widely, and sometimes starts and stops, when temperatures hold steady, either as cold or warm.
Beneath my feet, the ground has the softness of spring. And the promise of a clear day, will soon turn on this faucet.
By sunset, the buckets will be full.
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