The land-holder who appropriates a few rods of land to the preservation and cultivation of the sugar tree, not only increases the value of his estate, but confers a benefit upon future generations.
For being as technologically driven as I am today, you might not expect that I spent many days of my childhood growing up on a farm. We raised beef cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, lambs, and turkey, among other things. And once a year, just as winter winds to an end, we setup our taps and buckets around the woods to make pure maple syrup.
It’s been over 15 years since we collected sap at home, but I decided to revive this childhood pastime in my own back yard. It wouldn’t be nearly as large scale as it used to be, but I think there’s a lot more to the process than simple production. It’s knowing the right time and using the right resources to create such as sweet reward. And even though we’re now into the 21st century, the general process of making maple syrup has remained the same for a very long time. It’s something that my brothers and I learned as a family when we were younger, and definitely something that I would love to pass down to my future children as well.
When to tap
Collecting maple sap is very straightforward, and can only happen during a certain time of the year just before Spring. Because of the varying duration of the seasons, it’s difficult to give an precise time. The rule of thumb is when the temperatures are below freezing at night, and above freezing during the day. Generally, a low of 20F and high of 40F is a good time to start tapping. This happens around the end of February into the beginning of March.
Traditionally, wooden or cast iron spiles are used to extract the sap from the tree into a bucket. Today, we have newer spiles available that are plastic in design and 5/16″ in diameter. They are called “Ecolo spouts” (I still call them spiles), and are said to be much easier on the tree to allow for quicker healing. I’ll be using 2 of these spiles for my collector.
For storage, I’ve constructed a simple connector to a 5 gallon Primo water container. The original lid for the container has an opening with a center cap that’s easily removed. A 1/2″ threaded nylon hose barb fit snug into the opening, which has a 1/4″ fitting for the hose. Because this system is considerably sealed, I needed to drill holes into the barb fitting to allow for air to ventilate. The rest is simply measuring and adjusting for placement at the tree base.