The mild winter weather has not only put smiles on the faces of many Ottawa-area residents, it is also creating a possible banner year of maple syrup producers.
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Sap from maple trees is flowing weeks ahead of schedule, according to Scott Deugo, a producer at Fulton's Pancake House and Sugar Bush in Pakenham, about 55 km west of Ottawa.
The season has begun early for areas in Quebec and Northern Ontario, as well. Deugo said he has not tapped his trees early in about 20 years but already, 4,000 trees are pouring sap.
"Going out and tapping your trees is kind of your most exciting time," he said. "Spring is here and you're ready to go."
Deugo and others at Fulton's have so far used a vacuum to suck 300 gallons of sap from maze pipes.
The Ottawa-area sugar bush began its spring season Feb. 18 and it runs until April 22.
It has been a "sweet" start to the season for owner Shirley Fulton-Deugo as the weather has tricked trees into thinking it is spring.
"It could lengthen our season. We could get a nice run now for a week or so, then have winter come back and have it start all over again - have two mini-seasons, which would be a banner season," she said.
That early start has its limitations, though.
The Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association said if the temperature does not continue to fluctuate from warm days to freezing nights, the maple trees could bud too soon.
That would signal an early end to maple syrup season.