Vermont: Always a Good Bet...

It’s been a pretty mild season in Vermont this winter. On any given year, the months of February and March amount to one huge game of roulette here in the mountains of Vermont. Last winter ('14-'15) there was a total of more than 83 inches of snow. (That number comes from the National Weather Service in Burlington. Our central Vermont perch on the Western slope of Mt. Ellen saw far more than that.)

To break the hearts of local skiers, so far this season we have only seen 20 inches of the white powder that usually brings the skiers in droves. While many ski areas make snow at high elevations, our neighboring Mad River Glen (“Ski it if you Can!”) is America’s only skier-owned mountain, and one of the last ski areas in the country to rely solely on natural snowfall, which remains a point of pride to its loyal fan base. Everyone is looking to the sky and hoping for that certain type of cloud that signals a coming snowfall.

Maple sap flows best on warm sunny days after a hard overnight freeze. It takes boiling roughly 30 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.

Maple sap flows best on warm sunny days after a hard overnight freeze. It takes boiling roughly 30 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.

At this time last year we saw a few straight days of temperatures down around -20 (which sounds a lot worse than it is). This year we have only had a handful of nights that have dipped below zero. Despite our hopes to have a pond hockey party, our pond has frozen and thawed a few times. The birds who have stuck around for the winter are getting fat without trying.

What this all amounts to is one big seasonal question mark. Will the skiers get the powder they crave? Will the sap in our maple trees have a good flow this year without a thorough deep freeze? Will there be an early or slow transition to spring? Will mud season be more tolerable without all the melting snow pack? (Hopefully!) With any luck, we’ll get some nice white snow and a few more deep freeze nights to keep all of Vermont’s inhabitants happy, be they creatures, maple-making locals, or visiting tourists who hope to ski.

There’s a lot to see and do in Vermont during the late winter months. From cheese tours, to breweries, visiting covered bridges and museums, or touring (and sampling) maple syrup production, there is something for all adventurers to taste and enjoy. So, don’t despair if you’ve planned your trip and the snow isn’t cooperating. We have lots of ideas about how to explore and enjoy the best of Vermont in this season. It’s a beautiful place in any season, and we feel lucky to live here and share it with guests who want to have a real getaway.

We don't tap too many trees around the Bed and Breakfast property. Our selection of maple trees are scattered around the property, so sap collection is a big effort. Two years ago, we started some maple saplings from seed in the refrigerator, and they are now digging in some roots along the dirt road. They aren’t ready to tap yet and we only try to make enough maple syrup to last us for the year.

This season we are having a hard time trying to figure out when to tap the trees, and once we do, our fingers will be crossed that the sap will run plentifully. We hit the low 50's yesterday afternoon and dropped below freezing at night, and again today.

Given the fluctuations in temperature, the thaw that helps the sap to run also turns our road to a thick slurry of mud. We’ll be closing our doors (temporarily) in March in April, as the road becomes filled with ruts of mud that are next-to-impassable. While we’ll still hazard the journey and enjoy a daily adventure of forging the way, we don’t suggest that our guests take the risk of visiting in early spring. We’ll use that time to refresh some projects, apply some new paint to the porch, and maybe visit some friends and family before the summer comes.

Right around the same time we tap our trees, we also need to start some seeds for our summer garden. We have a little greenhouse that is suited with some heating elements, to inspire those little seeds to germinate a few weeks early. We hope that the greenhouse will extend our growing season by a month on either end. While most seeds won’t be started until late March, we start some of the hot peppers (habaneros and jalapenos) pretty early. This is where the question of what spring has in store for us comes up. If we start the seeds early and it's a late thaw, will the plants in the greenhouse outgrown their little pots before the ground is ready for them? For fresh fruits and veggies, it’s a chance we’re willing to take!  

Who needs Vegas when you can gamble with Vermont weather? 

-Luke McCarthy