It was about two months ago now, that I looked back at the 2008 log book, and noticed we had our fish houses out on 6 inches of ice. This past December I wrote down the 14th as the day we put them out. So this winter is about a week shorter than the last one. But even with that, I look forward to spring more than I recall from other years past. The thought seems sweeter every year. It's been a long winter already!

It's quite a cycle when you're so lucky, as I am and have been for a lifetime. First, the big Fishing Opener in May. Then the big Deer Opener in the fall. First ice in the winter. And coming soon, I hope, is the sap run in March, and if late, early April.

Ask me which part of the cycle I like the best and the part coming up will be the common answer. As winter grows too long, the Sugarbush is looking pretty inviting these days. Like first ice, unlike the other two scheduled parts of the cycle, the start of the sap run is not predictable a month or more ahead. But it's a sweet thought, even if it's a late spring that turns on the maple flavored flow.

Tapping the maple trees seems to be a lost tradition for the most part. When I was a kid, a drive down most roads in any direction, would show buckets or cans hanging from maple trees on just about every chunk of big woods. Nowadays, a handful of sapping operations, mostly smaller than years back, is hard to find in our parts of the north woods. I suspect it's the same all over maple tree country. It wasn't unusual to get off the school bus and have to tend to the bucket brigade in the north 40. Nowadays, I suspect it would be hard to find a kid of high school age that knew what "tapping the trees" even meant. I guess that's not all bad but it just doesn't seem right that such a great outdoor spring activity is pretty much lost. At least the sap keeps running, even if no one is left to tap into it.

Now, just in case there is anyone left that wants to learn the process of making liquid gold, you can sure feel free to visit our Sugarbush. I'll be glad to teach you all the little tricks we've learned over the past few decades. We hang about 600 buckets on the north shore of Mille Lacs. In the heart of the Red Door Resort hard maple tree forest. That's on the main street of Wealthwood Minnesota. Stay tuned for the sound of the first drops of the year. When it gets to 60 drips per minute, I'll let you all know. Just maybe, Red Door will make you a sweet lodging deal? It's already a sweet thought!

And just a note to all who called and emailed about my last writing in this space. THANK YOU for the kind words about my reflections on old number 58, Brett Farve's character and the life lessons they both convey. Contact Steve at 651-270-3383 or