Sugaring Season Drizzles to a Halt

ORLEANS, VT - It's been a rough year for maple sugaring, according to Rene Desmarais. He should know. His operation, known as Black Sheep Sugarhouse, produced about half as much syrup as it did last year - 4,530 gallons to last year's 9,013. He said that's not unusual for the county."Most sugarers are doing 25 to 35%," he said. But others, with better equipment, have reached the 50% mark.The season has been unusually short due to record-breaking warm temperatures. "I think we're all done," Desmarais said. He's drained his pans, washed his equipment and watched what little sap is left in the trees dribble onto the ground. "But you never know."It's the "never know" part that prevents him from packing up his equipment too soon. Weather reports hint at a possible freeze next week.This week, however, the sap was sour. That's what happens when the sun heats up the lines, he said. In the past, he would get a sour sap run followed by a freeze and end up with good fancy boiling afterward.But if the trees bud this weekend, as they have in other parts of the state, "We're done." You never know.