Last year we really wanted to tap our maple trees to make our own syrup, but I procrastinated so we missed our window of opportunity. We decided about a month ago to get serious about it this year so we started watching the weather and planned our time to collect the sap. Last weekend conditions were favorable, so we made a trip to Lowe's for some supplies and set up our taps.
Since this is our very first attempt at collecting sap, we looked online for an easy way to tap maple trees and found this video to be helpful in planning out the process. We are total newbies and have already made several mistakes, but
I thought sharing our experiences might help others who are wanting to tap
their maple trees for the first time as well. If you are experienced and have suggestions on how we could improve our process, please let us know. We'd be happy to hear any advice you'd like to share!
Screwdriver with 5/16" and 1/2" bits
1/2" metal (not plastic) taps
3/8" clear plastic tubing
5 gallon buckets with lids
1) Find your maple trees.
This is kind of a given obviously, but if you don't know how to identify trees without their leaves, you could be searching your woods forever. We called our local resource forester with the MDC who we worked with for our logging this past summer. Marty has been such an invaluable (and free) resource. I called him last week and he came right out and marked all of our maple trees for us so we'd know which ones to tap (it is advised to tap a tree only when it is healthy and the diameter of the tree is at least 12").
2) Watch your weather patterns to know when it is the optimal time to tap.
The tree sap starts to flow the best when nighttime temperatures are below freezing and daytime temperatures are above freezing. The sap will usually flow for about 3-4 weeks, but the best sap is produced early in the season.
3) Gather your supplies.
You can buy tapping kits online which I'm sure work really well, but we didn't want to wait for anything to come in the mail and tried to keep things as cheap as possible by making a quick trip to Lowe's.
4) Let the tapping begin.
Using your 5/16" bit, drill a hole at a slight upward angle 1.5" deep at chest height on the tree (this is the hole the sap will flow out of). In the same spot, using your 1/2" bit, drill a hole 1/2" deep (this is the hole that you insert the tap into). David put blue tape on each tap as a guide to know when he hit the correct depth.
Insert the tap by "tapping" it in with a hammer. (This is where we made our first mistake. We wanted to go as cheap as possible, so we bought plastic taps and 3 of the 5 broke while trying to insert into the tree, so we went back and purchased the metal variety which worked like a charm.) You may see the sap begin dripping out immediately at this point, depending on the time of day.
Attach tubing to the spigot on the tap and feed it into the bucket at the base of the tree (we drilled a hole in the lid the exact size of the tube). Secure the lid on the bucket to keep out any debris. Our lid did not fasten tight on the bucket, so we had to put a rock on top to keep it in place.
And that's it! Now the waiting game begins. We had a pretty cold day yesterday and temperatures stayed in the 20s, so the sap froze and did not flow. The next few days should get above freezing, so hopefully we will be able to collect more sap. We have read that the ratio of sap to syrup is 40:1, so if we are able to fill one 5-gallon bucket with sap, we should get about 16 oz of syrup once all is said and done. For our first year, I'd be happy with that. If it works out well, next year we will expand the operation, but this year we are focusing on just learning the process and working out all the kinks. Stay tuned for part 2 to hear about our method for turning the sap into syrup!
Have you ever made your own maple syrup? Did you find it harder or easier than you thought it would be?
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