Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Sap is Running!

OK, I am not running in the photo below!

The sap in the maple trees is running and I spent some time today tapping my trees. Maple sap has been used for hundreds of years by Native Americans, and they taught the colonists how to do it. I find it incredible to read about how the Native Americans tapped trees, and found ways to use the slightly sweet liquid. I brought a small jar of sap in and passed around small samples. We toasted Mother Nature and swigged the clear liquid down. Hmmm, I'm not sure I would call the sap exactly sweet, but as Peter, (my son), just said, "There was a suggestion of sweetness."



Tapping a Maple

You want to make sure you are actually tapping a maple tree! I'm not sure what oak syrup tastes like, but it isn't exactly a popular item. I selected four large maples and drilled a 3/8" hole two inches deep, about four feet from the ground in each of them. Three of them immediately started dripping sap. The fourth one didn't drip at all, so I plugged the hole with a stick, and tapped a different tree, which began flowing immediately. I have seven large maple trees, and feel fortunate that someone had foresight over fifty years ago to plant them.

After drilling the hole, I gently tapped in a spile so it is nice and snug. Don't hit it in too far, or you will split the tree and cause a large opening that will lose a lot of sap and perhaps allow insects inside.


The sap immediately began to flow and drip into the bucket. I have lids for the buckets to keep out precipitation and other stuff. The drips were falling at approximately one per second. One of the trees was dripping at twice that rate.


Ruth captured all of these photos. I especially like the one below showing the sap in mid-flight. The sap is slightly sweetened water, chock full of minerals.

Watch the sap falling into the bucket! Each tap will produce about 10 gallons of sap. It takes between 30 and 40 gallons of sap to boil down into pure maple syrup.




I love the way this bucket looks on my maple tree. I am only putting out four taps, hoping to end up with about a gallon of syrup. I may add more, but I don't want to get overwhelmed!


Get to Work!
I politely asked the maple trees to share their sap with me. I will have to come up with a way to reward them for their gift.

37 comments:

EcoGrrl said...

that is way cool. not just because today i wore a t-shirt and shorts and worked in the yard here in oregon. it really is too cool reading your blog!!! i'd say i wished i was there, but i have to get back out on the sunny porch now and sit :0)

Shari said...

I'd love to see the whole process, start to finish. I hope you are going to tell us more.

Thanks for this blog post and the photos.

Don said...

ecogrrl: I should have been out there in short sleeves today, it was about 38F! We have a 4-7 inch snow storm heading in here tonight! I am looking forward to seeing how easy/difficult this process will be.

Thanks for stopping by!

Don said...

shari: My wife Ruth and I love your profile picture!

I will have more photos next week of the boiling process. I have a big pile of firewood out in the corncrib ready to go!

*jean* said...

maple syrup is one of the best things on this earth! lucky you to have then on the farm!

Kelly or Alex said...

I can't believe that the sap is flowing this early. Even here in Maine with the warm weather people are tapping the trees. Hopefully we will have a real spring? :) Great pics. I really love the one with the sap in mid drop.
Kelly

Eliane said...

Before I read Little House in the Big Woods I don't think I really knew what Maple Syrup was or where it came from. And there you are doing it for real. Thanks for the lovely pictures and explanation.

Don said...

jean: it really is tasty! I am looking forward to having a go with making it!

Don said...

kelly: Last week I was in the maple syrup farm store and they were saying that a lot of people start tapping in February, but they wait til March. I decided I wanted to start early because I am impulsive!

I am ready for a nice long wet, cool spring!

Don said...

eliane: Maple syrup, along with pumpkins and corn, is a New World treat, and I actually watched my grandpa make it in Detroit back in the 1960's.

Susan said...

Don, you are so awesome! You have a pretty talented wifey, too! Or is that pretty and talented?

I like Peter's quote. When you think of it, the end product isn't overly sweet. Not like that fake stuff which is nothing but HFCS. So it stands to reason that the sap would have just "a suggestion of sweetness". Great observation.

That gallon you get should last you about a year in the fridge. That's usually the amount we buy annually.

I'm so excited about your project!

Don said...

susan: my wifey is all of that and more!

I doubt if the syrup lasts that long. I have a long line of droolers waiting for a taste, and by taste, I mean breakfast.

Sandy said...

Fascinating to read and to think you are going to have your own farm made maple syrup. Love the photo with the sap dropping.

warren said...

Where did you get your equipment? It's old school and really awesome looking!

Don said...

sandy: I find it interesting where things come from and how we make things too? I hope it turns out!!

Don said...

warren: I love the old-school stuff! We have a maple syrup "farm" complete with a store in Mason, MI and they sell their used stuff. They had some old wooden buckets on display, and I wanted those!!!

Carol said...

Nice series...good luck with the Maple Syrup. Nothing like the real thing....it will taste better than any you've ever had...because you made it from your own trees.

www.wildlifearoundus.blogspot.com

Lanny said...

My good friend taps her trees but not this year, we would have had to tap them in.. Oh say, first of December! Sure is fun, like snow is fun! This year we defer to our eastern most countrymen for that sort of fun eh?!

Don said...

carol: we are looking forward to some home-made french toast made with our eggs and syrup!

Don said...

lanny:your Pacific Northwest weather is definitely different! You have the Kwakiutl and totem poles, and the east has the maple syrup traditions

Ginnie said...

Man! If I had only known, Don! I had several old spiles I sold on eBay last year. After our cruise trip to New England a few years back, and visiting a maple syrup farm, I became very interested in all the sapping peraphernalia. I can just see you there on the farm...coming up with the next thing to do, and the next thing! How do you keep up with it all!!

Garden Girl said...

The last photo is very 'yo yo yo' rapper-esque! Is that how you politely ask the maples to share? Yo yo Maple! Share da sap wif da homies?

And how are you going to reward them? What does a full-grown maple want these days? Is this another example of 'what do you get for the tree that has everything'?

Amazing that the sap is rising despite the snow and cold. I imagine it's partly to do with day-length as well as temperature.

Shari Sunday said...

Very cool to learn about this. I never realized sap was clear and not very sweet. I guess I just thought they boiled it to make it thicker or something. Thanks for the lesson. Look forward to more.

Sunny said...

I remember going with my dad to a place know as the "Sugar-Bush" where he and 3 other guys worked together to collect maple sap and boil it into syrup. It was quite an operation. We were out in the cold all day on Saturdays, and at lunchtime we roasted hotdogs in the fire under the syrup pan. Such fun, most of today's children miss out on ...

Don said...

ginnie: I love old farm stuff. I enjoy seeing how and why people did things to survive and succeed. We are losing touch with knowing how to do real work!

Don said...

garden girl: You are too funny! I definitely was eminem out there with all the right moves, (uh, ok, not so much).

Yeah, what do you give a tree who has everything?

Don said...

shari: I often wonder about how people learned/decided to do things. Like the first person to catch a lobster and say, "hey let's eat this thing!"

Don said...

sunny: what nice memories you must have of that! Any time we get kids outside their comfort zone can be a good thing! If I had more maple trees, I would have to build a sugar shack!

lesleyanne said...

that is so way cool, papa! i especially love the last shot of you, hilarious! wish i could have a shot, sounds super delicious and nutritious! i keep thinking i can get away for a long weekend during Memorial day and visit the farm! ....?

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

OH MY GOODNESS!!!
WEll I never knew that you sorta make a tree into a dripping tap but one that drips what will be /could be pure sweet maple! Yum!
Amazing and informaive post.
Great Piccies too Ruth

Country Girl said...

We will be tapping this weekend. We might even try tapping a couple birch trees.

Don said...

Lesley: I have a small batch of syrup evaporating right now! I hope to eventually end up with about a gallon. We'll save some for you in case you come on Memorial Day!

Don said...

country cupcakes: it is interesting where some of our food comes from!! What interesting things do you eat?

Don said...

country girl: good luck with your syrup! How many trees are you tapping?

candice said...

We have gathered our first pails of sap from a very old large maple and find it to taste like tree. Does this sound right to you?

Don said...

candice: candice: if it is a maple tree, then you are fine. try boiling down a pint and see what you come up with. The sap will keep for about 5 days, if you keep it cold.

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