by Tom Cherveny, West Central Tribune
NEW LONDON — Is it possible for spring to come too early to Minnesota?
It did for those who love the drip, drip, drip of maple sap and the syrup to be made from it.
This year’s maple syrup-making season suffered an abrupt and early ending with the arrival of above-average temperatures to the region in March.
“It is really shutting it down fast,’’ said instructor Carl Vogt. He teaches in the Department of Forest Resources, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Minnesota Extension.
Dick Clayton, park naturalist at Sibley State Park, said he has already pulled all of the maple collecting plugs in the park. It’s one of the earliest ends to the maple syrup-making season he can recall in 25 years at the park.
It was a shortened, but good season for the park. Clayton hosted some 170 to 180 people at six different demonstrations of maple syrup gathering and making during the season.
Maple sap runs when daytime temperatures rise above freezing and drop below freezing at night.
Clayton said he was looking forward to a slow warm-up and a long, maple syrup-making season. He was slogging his way through a three-foot snowpack to tap the maple trees at the start of the season.
Now, he and Vogt are expressing surprise at how quickly the buds on maple trees are swelling and spring is making its presence known.
Still, neither is entirely shocked by the early ending. Every maple season is different, they said.
We may soon see even more dramatic evidence of how different this spring is by watching the lakes of Kandiyohi County. This year’s ice-out dates could be for the record books.
The ice is already out on Foot and Willmar Lakes and most of the other, shallow water lakes to the south, said Bruce Gilbertson, fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Willmar.
From the looks of things, he is expecting the ice to go out on Green Lake as early as this weekend. The historical average ice-out date is April 16, and the big lake has been ice covered until as late as May 7 in 1951.