•  Sugarmaker Chris Ransom of Vadnais Heights, Minn. loads a pailful of fresh sap into his 4x4 flat pan during a cook at his sugarhouse on Friday March 10. “It’s been a weird year,” Ransom said.

  •  Sugarmaker Chris Ransom, who is president of the Minnesota Maple Producers Association during a cook at his suburban sugarhouse on March 10.

  •  The sample window at Spence’s Sugar Bush in Spring Valley, Wisc. Lots of very light syrup made at the farm so far this season.

  •  Sugarmaker Nate Spence of Spring Valley, Wisc. demonstrates their evaporator for Alice in Dairyland Ann O’Leary on Saturday, March 11.

  •  A sample of Dark Robust made by sugarmaker and consultant Leslie Ober in Chardon, Ohio where many sugarmakers have pulled taps and others are hanging on, hoping this latest cold snap will reset the trees.

  •  The forecast for midweek.                                         

  •  Temperatures should be near-record lows throughout the region.                                         

Another reset coming this week, hopes to extend season

'It’s been a weird year,' one sugar maker says


SPRING VALLEY, Wisc. — Another big reset is happening across the Maple Belt, freezing trees.

“We’ve had so many highs and lows in temperatures this season,” said Mark Spence of Spence’s Sugar Bush in Spring Valley, Wisc., where he and his three sons have made 13 barrels so far.

Spence, like many sugarmakers in the Midwest, said he was taken by surprise by the perfect sugaring weather in February.  He is cooking off of 4,700 taps this season.

‘Last year we made one barrel in February and thought that would never happen again and here we are this year and we made four times that.”

At the tree tapping ceremony at Spence’s farm on Saturday, featuring state agricultural ambassador Alice in Dairyland, there were lots of happy but weary sugarmakers who were appreciating the break the frigid temperatures brought this weekend.

“This past week we boiled most of the week.  It ran constantly,” said sugarmaker Theresa Baroun of DePere, Wisc.

Todd Thompson of Knapp, Wisc. said he had the biggest sap run of his sugaring career on Feb. 24.

“It ran for 30 hours straight,” he said.

Thomson is up to 32 barrels already on his 7,600 taps and is hoping for another month in front of him.  He started drilling holes on Valentines Day, unheard of in the Badger state until this year.

Meanwhile, in nearby Minnesota it was much of the same story.  Happy and early.

Chris Ransom, a sugarmaker in Vadnais Heights, Minn. and president of the Minnesota Maple Producers Association said sugarmakers are freaked out a little by the early season.

“It’s been a weird year,” Ransom said.  

He drilled his first taps on February 18 and “it was gushing,” he said.  It is a full month before he or any other sugarmaker in Minnesota would even think of tapping a tree.

“Even on the North Shore (of Lake Superior) they’re already cooking,” Ransom said.

Back in the Northeast, sugarmakers have been shut down since last week by the cold, and now up to two feet of snow is predicted for the region early this week.

It could mean a big extension of the season.

"Winter will hold a tight grip on the Northeast in wake of the significant snowstorm early this week," AccuWeather Meteorologist Max Vido said.

A fresh blast of arctic air will plunge southward in the wake of the nor'easter, encompassing nearly the entire eastern half of the nation by midweek, AccuWeather says.

Highs at midweek will be held below freezing throughout the Great Lakes and Northeast. Temperatures will not rise out of the lower and middle 20s F in the Appalachians, including in Binghamton, New York, and Burlington, Vermont.

"Factoring in the wind, cloud cover and other variables, AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures will be 10 to 20 degrees lower than the actual temperature," AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff said.

Winds will gust between 35 and 45 mph in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. In addition to forcing residents to dress for harsh mid-winter conditions, the winds will blow and drift snow left by the nor'easter.

In Ohio, where many sugarmakers have already pulled taps after a week long stretch of 70s and 80s, others are still hoping to get a season in front of them and the winter blast will help.

“Ohio is hanging on, one run at a time,” said OSU Extension maple specialist Leslie Ober.