Even though I check the long-range forecast daily, I cannot seem to figure out what today’s weather will be. When I woke up this morning, it was cold and gray outside, and sprinkling rain, but by mid-afternoon the sun shone warmly down from a bright blue sky. I simply wore a long-sleeved shirt when I was out and about. No need for a jacket at all.

Without a doubt, the day had turned absolutely beautiful, and I certainly enjoyed the sunshine, but to be completely honest, I felt a nagging uncertainty in the back of my mind.

I had watched my honeybees fly out from their front entrances in search of pollen and nectar to bring back to the hives. I knew that their flights would be to no avail. The day was warm, but the first spring flowers would be nowhere to be found.

My late-winter weather hope for my honeybees is that the cold suddenly gives way to warmth and sunshine so that when the bees break out of their clusters, as the temperatures reach the mid-50s, they will fly away from their hives and find early spring flowers bursting with pollen and nectar.

It is days like today when temperatures rise and the bees fly, but there is not a single bit of honeybee food to be found, that I worry. And then I think of our sugar maples. Last year was not a maple syruping year at all. The temperatures never dropped low enough for long enough for the trees’ roots to convert the summer’s gathered starches into sugar. We hardly burned through any firewood at all, but it was not a good winter for the sugar maples.

In the fall when temperatures drop below freezing, the sugar maples’ sap flows down through the sap wood, which lies just below the bark and deep underground, where it stays all through the winter in the safety of the roots. Were the sap to stay up in the branches, it would freeze and expand and split the life-giving sap wood.

Then, in late winter or early spring, when the daytime temperatures rise above freezing, the sap moves back up from the roots and into the branches.

Each night, as the temperatures again drop below freezing, the sap flows back down into the roots for safe-keeping.

It is this flow of the sap, rising and falling through the sap wood, that is the “run” that maple suragers need. Typically, the entire run will last about two weeks, but the temperatures during this two-week period need to continually rise and fall. If the temperatures stay warm or drop back below freezing, for more than a day, the sap will stop flowing until the next rise or fall in temperature.

We well know that this past winter was exceedingly cold in our neck of the woods, and I was happy. Surely, we burned through more firewood than the winter before, but my honeybees stayed safe inside their hives, not wasting their energy to fly across the creek valley in search of food that was not there. And the maple sap stayed safely down in the sugar maples’ roots, converting last summer’s photosynthesis-gathered energy into sugar. And as for me? I sat warm by the woodstove, knowing that all was well with our creek valley world.

But then suddenly, the weather has turned warm, and it seems to be staying warm. I know that I can feed my honeybees some of last summer’s honey, saved as either full frames, frozen in the deep freeze, or in jars of honey that I give back to the bees in entrance feeders. I really should not worry too much about the bees.

But for the maple trees, there is really little that I can do. Most maple sugarers set out a few test taps to see if the flow has begun, but if a sugarer waits too long, hoping for a late winter freeze followed by below-freezing nights and warm days, the hoped-for freeze may never come.

Last winter was just such a winter. The weather simply warmed, the maple sap stayed up in the trees’ branches and there was little, if any, flow.

So, I check the long-range forecast. The next two weeks call for above-freezing days and below-freezing nights, perfect for sap flow. I will set my taps tomorrow. But as I walk through the woods, I will think about my honeybees. I will keep my eyes peeled for the first signs of spring flowers, even though I know that it is still too early. And then, after my taps are set, I will go out to the apiary and set an entrance feeder, filled with watered-down honey, at the front of each hive.

I realize that the forecast is just that, a forecast, and not a guarantee. I fully understand that the weather will simply be whatever it may. I also know that it is perfectly wonderful to be outside this time of year.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.