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Claybrook Mountain Lodge
March, 2014

In February the sun reaches an angle that lets us feel warmth in the afternoon. It is a little hint of what is to come in March when the thaw begins and the sap runs. That is the way it supposed to be…… right? Not so in March of 2014. Today is the 24th of March, and the sky is clear with the temperature in single numbers and the wind is blowing. Yesterday was clear and sunny but the afternoon temperature was in the 20s. The last 3 storms brought nearly 30 inches of new snow. Our usual winter reservations are over and I should be boiling sap and cutting firewood. I have 200 taps out and if I checked them all I might have 5 gallons of sap. Yesterday I cut a little firewood with the skidder only able to get traction where I had already made a trail. When you drive down the road you can’t see over the snow banks on either side.

I have my fingers crossed for a good maple syrup season. Once it begins to run it usually runs until the snow is nearly gone. It will take a lot of warm afternoons to get rid of this snow pack. The snow has reached a point now that will cause some real troubles downstream if it thaws quickly. It has been 27 years since the last big spring flood and I hope this is not the year we get another. We have been feeding a horde of Blue Jays unlike any we have seen in recent winters. It is a rare thing not to have a lot of them around throughout the year but they seem a bit over populated now. Pat’s cousin Carla has a place on the Sandy Stream road and she noticed the paint peeling off the lower part of her garage door. She also saw tracks and kept watch to find that Blue Jays were pecking at it. After seeing that, I noticed that they were pecking at painted wood on our flag pole and the rails on the ramp leading into the lodge. Some mornings there are whole flocks of them under our vehicles in the yard. At first I thought they were sheltering underneath. It appears as though they are pecking at the underside of the vehicles to get sand that is stuck there. A vehicle that hasn’t been moved for a while is easier because they can stand on snow built up from the last storm rather than jump up underneath. Yesterday I saw a Blue Jay that was hopping to all the feeder sites unable to fly. I chased him around until he got exhausted and caught him. With the deep snow he nearly exhausted me first. Ron Joseph came to help me tap the maples, and he calls this bird “Benny”. We brought him into the house so he wouldn’t use energy trying to stay warm. At first he went into a depression, but after eating bacon and sunflower seeds for a couple of days he got energy and confidence back. Every day he seems a little better, and I think he will recover.

I have all the taps out and in the afternoon some of the better trees seep a little, but most buckets are dry. I believe most of the maple syrup will be made in April.

Alden and Priscilla Small and friends made their annual trek during the first weekend in March, and though cold, it was sunny weather—great for being outdoors. The snowmobiling was excellent and the riders in the group were able to go wherever they wanted on perfect trails. Priscilla is working hard on a book about her father and she spent most of her time with that. She is a wonderful writer and she read some of it to us. Winston and Theona Edwards were very special to us and the reading brought back such sweet memories that we were all in tears before long. I will be excited to read it when she is finished.

When I came home from Resq one morning I saw the tracks of a cow and a calf moose in the road by the Michael Stream Bridge. They were wandering back and forth and they gave me the impression that they were stressed. Coyote tracks seemed to be following them everywhere. I didn’t take time to go sort it all out, and it appeared as though they wandered away south on Old County road. The next day I came upon a sight that reminded me how harsh winter is on wildlife. Just off the road in the Maples below our field was a dead calf moose. There were tracks that showed that his mother left and came back several times to coax him up. He was covered in ticks and became so exhausted that he laid down and gave up. I believe the cow had a second calf that left with her. I came upon the calf the next morning and the coyotes had already been eating it. I decided to pull it to my camera and bait site a short distance away, and when I touched the moose it was still warm. I was shocked when I realized that the coyotes began eating him while he was still alive. He was just too weak to do anything about it. We humans have it so easy!

Our only other business in March was Dan Batsie with a group of EMS instructors for a one night retreat. I was glad to have a chance to visit with Dan a bit. He has been waiting for the sap to start running also. We both, of course, are worried about the affect of winter on our deer hunting next fall.

I got a lot of firewood cut since I wasn’t spending time boiling sap. A number of people have run out of wood locally so the extra dry wood that I usually have left in the shed is getting whittled down. I knew there was a reason I put up so much. Ron Joseph has come to stay for a few days hoping to help out with the maple syrup. It looks like there may be enough to start on April 1st. Ron fed “Benny” some good scraps of meat and suet, and he began to show signs of recovery. We brought him outside and he still wasn’t able to fly well, so we will keep him a few more days.

I have enjoyed this winter, but at this point I am hoping for a lot of warm sunny days in April.

                                        “Gang Warily”,
                                             Greg and Pat

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