March 14, 2018

Good-bye Snowshoes, Hello Maple Syrup

A Nova Scotia maple syrup operation.

What a winter. Unlike the previous several winters, this winter had a marked lack of snow. While it was nice to have milder temperatures, I prefer being able to play in deep snow all winter long. That was not to be this year.

After only 5 snowshoeing adventures earlier this winter, it looks like the season is drawing to an unnaturally early close. You know it is not long for winter when the maple syrup season begins, and producers here in Nova Scotia are saying this is the earliest start in decades.

Even in an ordinary year, maple syrup is the earliest agricultural activity around here. For maple sap gathering to begin, the weather must be below freezing at night, and above freezing during the day. These conditions are usually experienced some time around the beginning in March.

This year some maple tappers were done by mid February, and this is the third year in a row that saw earlier starts than the average.

Canada has a long history of maple syrup production. Indigenous peoples showed early settlers how to harvest and boil the sap. The fourth moon of the year in late March early April, was known as Izhkigamisegi Geezis, "the boiling moon", to the Obijway people.

I am thinking that might have to be changed to the third moon of the year.

Climate changes will require us to adapt to all manner of new conditions. This is what some in the area think is likely to occur:

"Scientists expect Nova Scotia to see more powerful storms, rising sea levels, storm surges, extreme precipitation, flash flooding, loss of sea ice, and hotter, drier summers and wetter, warmer winters."

And a earlier, shorter maple syrup season. And summer droughts. Researchers didn't give their outlook for snowshoeing, but I can see that I will probably have to find a different winter exercise activity.

Oh, my snowy woods. I miss you already. The woods will have less snow, and more ticks, and that will not be the worst of it. We are headed into uncharted climate and ecological territory, providing even more reasons to live a more simple, low carbon, low on the food chain, local lifestyle.

But the good news is that I can visit my neighbour down the road for fresh maple syrup a couple of weeks earlier than usual. That seems like a small consolation, but I do try to celebrate the little things.

How long, I wonder, before I will be able to grow my own rice?


  1. Maple syrup is so expensive here in Australia, love that stuff.

    1. Franny and Danny,

      Maple syrup is expensive here, too.

  2. Our February was one of the warmest on record. March has been colder, but still things are budding early, as well as birds nesting a month ahead of the usual time. I would imagine that bugs of all sorts will be in greater abundance. Why does it have to be the less than helpful kind?

    I remember reading a story in grade school about sugaring time in Vermont. It's stayed with me and made wish I could experience it in person someday.

  3. Anonymous3/15/2018

    We live in Northeast PA & most of the "Nor easters" have been missing us, which is unusual. However, New York, Mass., Maine have been getting slammed. Not the warmest winter for us here, but not the coldest either. Most of our snowstorms have been small ones, but we have gotten rain as well.

    1. Anonymous3/17/2018

      Oh my, I forgot to mention the ticks!!!! We have a very, very high tick population here in PA, maybe due to the warm, humid weather???

    2. Linda,

      Here they are saying that "every season is tick season".

  4. Anonymous3/15/2018

    Here in Australia we have just experienced one of the nicest Spring/Summers in about 4 years. Temperatures were more normal and there were no out-of-control bush fires. However, we are now set to have one of the coldest Winters on record.

    I think we all have to adapt, and the lovely thing is the internet is a good tool for finding out how others cope in similar climactic conditions. I am planting trees closer to my veggie garden as they do in parts of Greece - the proximity of the trees lowers the ambient temperature in the Summer and helps the garden to cope with the hot dryness. Sadly I don't have a river nearby as proximity to water is also helpful. Although I dislike caring for a lot of lawn, having moist grass near your garden also helps plants stay cool. Apparently the right combination of trees/grass can lower the ambient temperature up to 10 degrees. Conversely, having no trees, a black roof and black road nearby really heats things up.

    I have been growing citrus in pots on the verandah, as well as in sheltered positions in the garden. The climate has become more suited to citrus lately, however we still have frosts to contend with. I plan on surrounding the citrus and fig trees with hay bales for warmth and cover them with frost cloth. Hopefully they will survive the Winter like this.

    I have been starting to get a little fearful that recent milder Winters could mean that eventually there are not enough 'chilling hours' for stone fruit to set, so I feel grateful for a cold one this year! Gregg, I am sorry that your outdoor playtime has been curbed. I think climate change does not move in a straight line, and imagine there will be some wonderful Winters interspersed with the more disappointing ones in years to come.


    1. Anonymous3/16/2018

      Madeleine - thank you for the tips on trees near the garden. We live in the Pacific Northwest of the US, on the west side of the Cascade mountains, and usually it is a chilly and wet winter with many days of drizzly rain. Not this year - many many dry and sunny days that were above normal temps, then a few days of downpours, then back to sun. We've been out bird watching more than usual this winter due to the good weather, which is a plus, but I'm worried that the reservoirs were not properly recharged for summer as we don't have as much snow pack as needed.

      Marla - the bugs are early this year...I saw a lovely moth the other day called a Semirelict Underwing - at least two months earlier than it should be out and about! As my boyfriend says, "March is the new May" around here.

      Spring has definitely sprung! Gregg - enjoy that maple syrup!


    2. Madeleine,

      It's snowing! Still not enough for snowshoeing, but we are getting there.


      We are patiently waiting for the robins to return. Should be any time now, although it is currently storming.

  5. Anonymous3/16/2018

    Another one here with weird weather...I think we broke record every month this winter....The most snow, the longest cold snap, the warmest winter day. One Wednesday earlier this month we broke the record for the warmest day, Thursday we broke the record for the most snow???

    Just count me in as another confused gardener.


    1. Marie,

      In the three years since we moved to the east coast we have had record breaking snowfall (first winter), and the worst drought since record keeping began. Last year was the earliest we have ever planted a garden, and we gardened longer into the fall. I planted garlic on a beautiful December 1st day.

      More extreme weather is becoming more common.

  6. We've had record breaking cold days and warm days in the wrong time of year for it too here in South Carolina. I'm very confused. The birds, the insects, and plants are too. Bird migration is really messed up I've noticed.

    I'm reading a thousand page book about the social history of the United States. At least in this country it seems we've assaulted our land with a fury since the 1500's. Actually humans were doing it before the Europeans arrived which was a surprise to learn. It's a rather sad read at times but is giving me a perspective on the history of what humans have done to warm the climate in this country anyway. This isn't new as Gregg has reported here many times.

    You really do love the snow and snow activities. Sad that there were less snowy days for you this year.

    I love Canada's maple syrup! It's crazy expensive, but I budget for it a couple of times a year. I store it in my refrigerator so it lasts a long time. So good! Enjoy!


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