For the last two months my husband and I have been revolving our schedules around, maple syrup. Harvesting maple syrup is a fun thing to do and it fits into a farmers life because things on the farm are a little bit slower in the winter season. 🙂
Eric has been tapping sugar maple trees around Polyface for the last 4 years and before he came to Polyface he had been tapping trees for 3-4 years in the suburbs of Chicago. So between the two of us, he is the expert and I love to just follow around, helping and learning at the same time.
So for those of you who are curious how we tapped, collected, and boiled down maple syrup on a small scale, here are some picture of the first step, tapping trees.
First we start out with thoroughly cleaned 5 gallon buckets, lids, taps, tubing (we ordered this and the taps from a maple syrup supply company), hammers, a drill with a drill bit the same diameter as our taps, and baling twine.
Then you have to go find your maple trees! We tap the trees when the weather drops below freezing at night and the day time temperatures rise above freezing. When we come to a sugar maple tree there are a few things we check for first. First we have to make sure the tree is big enough to tap. The tree needs to have a diameter of at least 12 inches. It takes about 40 years for a sugar maple tree to reach this diameter. Next we start looking on the east side of the tree for a big branch or a large root. We want to drill our hole in line with one of these and we prefer the east side because this side warms up quicker. Maple trees like sunny, still, and above 32 degree days for the sugar water to flow.
We drill the hole 3 or more feet above the ground and about 1/2 in to 3/4 in deep. When you do this on a warm day, you almost immediately see a drop of sugar water. We use a hammer to put the tap into the tree so it is snug. Trees that are big enough get 2 taps. We had a handful of trees this year big enough to handle 3 taps.
Once the tap is in the tree we cut the tubing to reach down to the bucket with some slack. Most of our buckets have a hole on the side, right below the lip of the bucket. We feed the tubing into the bucket, put a lid on it, and if it needs it we tie the bucket up to a tree branch with baling twine so it won’t blow over.
Here is what our set up looked like after we did one tree. Then we repeated 41 times!