There are 2 signs that your sugar season's over:
1. the trees don't give you sap, either because they just don't, or you don't have weather conditions conducive to sap flow
2. sap/syrup quality: sap collected after the trees have budded will not make good-tasting syrup.
Yesterday's sap journal post expressed the eternal optimism of the sugar maker, based entirely on the weather forecast at that time.
However, by the end of the day Easter Sunday, it was pretty obvious that the trees had very much enjoyed this warm spell.
You may not be able to see it in the picture, but these sugar maple buds have not only plumped up, they have elongated. The bud scales have separated, indicating that the trees have shifted into growth state. This is what's referred to as "budding" and it signals the end of the sugar season.
Once the trees reach this stage, there is no going back.
So even if this cold snap brings on a sap run, we know based on bud development that we can't make good syrup. The season's over.
We just have to wait til next year.
We find it both fascinating and humbling that no matter how you go about maple sugaring, whether you're on buckets, or gravity-fed tubing, or high-efficiency vacuum sap collection system, everything comes down to the trees and the weather - forces that remain, ultimately, mysterious.
Maple syrup really is a gift.
We began collecting sap late February and did our last boil on April 12. It was exactly the same as last year, only our production was a little less.
We end our season at almost 80% of an average crop, but we remain incredibly grateful.