Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Happened to Spring?

March 6th, 2012 was the first day of the entire winter season in which I was able to actually use my new snow blower.  Waking up to 8 inches of heavy wet snow, the John Deere got a long overdue workout.  Seven  days later, March 13 it was 66 degrees and the forecast predicts temperatures in the 70's out till next Tuesday, March 20th.  Plans to fish Lake of the Woods have been all but dashed as reports have all lake access closed.  Reports from Wheeler's Resort at the mouth of the Rainy River claim they have never seen the ice deteriorate a quickly as it has.  Well, it's Minnesota and as we say.....If you don't like the weather, just wait a week!  Just as fast as the warm has arrive, it can be pushed back south just a quick.  This year's lackluster winter has resulted in lake ice thickness considerably less than normal.  It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming week.  Besides putting a damper on our late season ice fishing this weather is really affecting the another little know rite of spring, the maple syrup harvest.  After being dormant for about 5 months maple trees start waking up when the daytime temperatures start getting over 40 degrees.  With temperatures below freezing at night and warm temps in the day, the sap flows from the roots making it's way to the very top of the tree.  The ideal conditions of cold night/warm day temperatures really get things going as it is not unusual to get up to 5 gallons of sap from a medium sized tree.  The current weather is proving less than ideal for the sap flow.  With nighttime temperatures in the 50's and day time in the 70's, this has all but shut down the sap.  The above picture is one of my trees that the neighbor has tapped.  Last year I noticed that the neighbor a few blocks down from the house had every available tree fitted with a tap and bucket.  Inviting him to have access to my trees for this year he stopped by on Monday night asking permission.  I checked out the buckets this morning and there probably wasn't a gallon between them.   It takes roughly 30 - 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of pure maple syrup.  Sap is boiled, driving the water out as it becomes sweeter and thick.   As the sap is reduced the sugar content increases which in turn raises the boiling temperature of the liquid.  When the boiled sap reaches a temperature of 219.1 degrees it is finished and ready for a big stack of pancakes.   A grove of maple trees is called a Sugar Bush and my friend Bill Lundeen harvest's over 1000 gallons of sap each year making 25 - 30 gallons to sell at the shop.  He's not very optimistic this year.

The weather put a stop to getting out this past weekend.  Most of the small ponds in the Minneapolis area are ice free and the lake ice is already starting to turn black.  I have been working on both boats, putting on a new MinnKota Terrova on the Ranger while replacing a storage compartment and moving the battery on my jon boat.  The Terrova is the I-pilot version and has a accurate electronic compass and GPS built into the motor head.  It has a number of cool features like Spot lock which when engage will keep your boat in a stationary location as an anchor.   I hate throwing out an anchor.  It will also memorize up to 6 different tracks, each could be 2 miles long, and accurately follow what it has memorize.  I am pretty excited to try it.  Having learned the ways of the river last year, I am fine tuning my jon boat to make my fishing experience more enjoyable as I am moving the battery more to the front of the boat.  This will give me a lot more room in the back to fish from.  If the weather continues a trip to the Mississippi River or even the Rainy River might be in the cards sometime in the next 4 weeks.  It could be a record early ice out for many of the lakes I fish and could really change our Minnesota Fishing Opener on Leech Lake.   Looking in the sky tonight, I can't help but notice my winter friend, the constellation Orion.  He is soon to disappear from the night sky as we continue to to longer days.   If you have a chance look in the western sky just after sunset and you will see 2 very bright stars very close together.  The one on the right is the planet Venus and the one on the left is the Planet Jupiter.  They will be the closest together tonight before starting to move apart.  If you turn around and look above the eastern horizon you can see the Planet Mars, the one with the reddish tint.  The stars are really putting on a show this month.

With fishing winding down till opener my weekend will be tasked with starting to trim my apple trees.  March is an excellent time to do this and is necessary to assure a good crop later in the year.  Pruning the trees opens up the inside allowing air and sunlight to penetrate the fruit, which is good.  It makes spraying and picking much easier.  The frost is expected to go out by Friday, it looks like I am going to be fairly busy. 

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