Tapping Our Maples

We have several maples surrounding our tiny yard. A few years back my husband mentioned that he thought it would be neat to tap them and make maple syrup. We have some friends who tapped their trees last year and made syrup and I guess we figure if they can do it so can we. I agreed that this could be fun but would take some research. Neither of us has any experience in this area.

So I turned to my good friend google and started reading and pinning. Here is what I learned.

  • You tap maple trees in the spring, when the temperatures start to get above freezing during the day but drop below freezing at night.
  • Only tap trees that are 12″ in diameter or more.
  • You can expect the sap to flow for 4 to 6 weeks (when it stops getting below freezing at night) and then you pull your taps out so the tree can use the rest of the sap to grow for the season.
  • One tree will put out about 1/2 to 2 gallons of sap per day and between 10 and 80 gallons per season.
  • You need about 35 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
  • It will take about 8 hours to boil down 8 gallons of sap.
  • Boiling the sap down needs to be done outdoors to avoid having sticky walls. Finishing the syrup can be done indoors once most of the water is boiled off.

Now for the tapping supplies.

  1. A drill bit and drill to put a hole in the tree.
  2. A spile for each tree.
  3. Some buckets or empty jugs to let the sap drain in to.
  4. And possibly some PVC tubing to get the sap from the spile to the bucket.

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We chose to get some PVC threaded male adapters to use for our spiles. We also got some PVC tubing to attach to the spile and some buckets and lids to drain the sap into. Our total startup cost was about $50 but don’t let that scare you off. We could have done it for $2 if we had used empty milk jugs and already had the drill bit. Our trees are on the other side of our fence though so we decided to go this route for easier access to the sap. And since we plan to reuse the supplies and buckets we won’t have that cost in the future.

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We picked a day that was 40ish to tap the trees. Having never done this before we expected a learning curve. But once my husband started drilling into the first tree the sap started to pour out. We drilled with a smaller bit to get things going and then with the 3/4″ bit we bought for this project. It helps to have a decent drill, which we do not.

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Once the holes were drilled my hubby tapped the spiles (and his thumb once) in with a mallet. Then he attached the hose. We ran that into our buckets through a hole we drilled into the bucket lids with the bit we got to drill into the trees.

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We saved the tree out front for when the boys got home from school so they could participate.

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Here are the buckets lined up along our fence.

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All of the trees but one started flowing immediately. We will check it the next warm day and see if it is just a slow starter.

So far (apart from my husbands thumb) this has been a fun journey.

UPDATE: 3/21/14 So far we really haven’t gotten much sap. There are a few things that we think could be factors in this. The weather, the location of our taps and the trees, some of which aren’t sugar maples, might just not be the “giving kind.” We are going to try to tweak a few things and see if we have more success.

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2 responses to “Tapping Our Maples

  1. Fun! I typed a long comment, but WordPress said it couldn’t be posted! Bother…

    Basically I said, enjoy the experience! We love being part of the process of eating something you harvest right from your own back yard! (And it’s fun to learn from your mistakes along the way, as well as the successes)

    Much sticky success to you Bertous this sugaring season!

  2. Pingback: Tapping Our Maples: Making Syrup | lifewithcheryl

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