Tom Cox, Skip Pound and Jimmy Annis started tapping maple trees early this season. The three men collect sap from their properties in Rockport and Hope and boil it down at Cox’s sap shack on Park Street in Rockport for syrup that is given to family and friends.

Cox said March 7 that he started collecting the watery liquid that when concentrated by evaporation becomes maple syrup on Feb. 16. Since that time, he has put approximately 600 gallons into the pan atop the wood fire in his homemade evaporator, yielding 12 to 14 gallons of thick, sweet syrup.

“Every year we do something to make it more efficient,” said Cox. “This year we put in a float to regulate the depth of the sap.”

Two years ago, during a similarly warm late winter season, the men delayed collection and missed out on getting much of the raw material needed for the process. This year they started as soon as the days became warm enough to start the sap running in the trees.

Throughout the state, Maine Maple Sunday will be March 25. The Maine Maple Producers Association provides a map and list of participating sugarhouses at its website at mainemapleproducers.com.

Cox said he began making syrup on an open, outdoor fire when his children were 4 or 5 years old. That was more than 40 years ago.

“It’s a rite of spring for us,” he said.

The VillageSoup Gazette reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.