EAST CONCORD, N.Y. — In the Wendel family, the sound of a hammer tapping a tree normally means the start of spring.
But this year, the sap started flowing a little earlier.
“We really didn't have much of a winter, and because we didn't have that excessive cold, spring kind of came early, so we've been rustling or hustling to get ready,” said Nick Wendel, sugar maker at Wendel’s Maple and More.
In order for maple syrup to be tapped, the temperatures need to be below freezing at night and above during the day to allow sap to flow at the proper rate.
These conditions haven’t been seen in the areas closer to Buffalo after this past week's storm left many with ice rinks for driveways, but have been consistent in the southern parts of the region for the past two weeks.
They aren’t completely foreign to Wendel’s business either.
“Quite a few years ago, 2008 was a season that came quite early like this one, and it turned out to be a tremendous season for us,” Wendel said. “We can only hope that the weather patterns are the same and have a similar effect this year.”
Due to those specific weather requirements, the northeast region of United States and parts of Canada are the only areas in the world able to produce maple syrup.
But as much as the weather is what’s allowed the Wendel family to farm syrup for the past 66 years, it is also keeping them from untapping their full potential this spring.
“We learned to be as efficient as we can, try to make good choices on when to tap, when to wait,” Wendel said. “We try to be as efficient as possible with the production so that we can be as economical as possible.”
Wendel and his family’s biggest fear is that the typical six-week season could end even sooner than it started, keeping their business from reaching its goal of 2,000 gallons of syrup produced.
With up to a month left of the season, their business, like it or not, is left in the hands of Mother Nature’s wrath.
“We’re dictated by Mother Nature, and when she says we're done, we're done,” Wednel said. “We can guess. But every time that I've tried to guess, Mother Nature proved me wrong.”
Wendel’s Maple and More will hold an open house all four weekends in March from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so those interested can learn more about the maple syrup tapping process.