I am so excited about having the baby chicks, that the other morning I decided to walk across the street and tell our neighbors. Rachel and Tad have 5 beautiful children they are home schooling, so I thought seeing and holding the chicks would be fun and educational for them.
After inviting Rachel and the kids over to see the chicks and then staying to talk for a few minutes, Rachel said” oh, I have something for you, homemade maple syrup.”
Rachel handed me a pint of golden brown syrup and she and the kids took me outside to see the maple tree taps and to watch the sap dripping into buckets.
I got really excited because I realized we have many maple trees in our own yard!
I hurried home and after scouting out which trees I was sure were maple trees, I started doing an internet search.
I goggled how to tap the trees, where to purchase the spiles (tree taps) and the whole process of making maple syrup. I learned that Ohio is ranked in the top 5 states in maple syrup production.
|Large Maples in my own back yard|
There are quite a few websites offering spiles for sale, but most are not local, so mail order, which would take a week to two for the spiles to arrive.
From what I had read on many websites, the tree tapping period for Ohio maple trees is in its final stages, so I needed spiles ASAP!
I decided to call our local Tractor Supply store, who then called other local Tractor Supply stores until they found taps in their Heath store.
My husband Bill just happened to be out in that area, so he stopped and picked them up for me.
|Me at Slate Run Historical Farm|
We went on Saturday to Slate Run Historical Farm to watch their late 1800's style tree tapping and maple syrup process. It was a fun and educational day, and great to find out a little more history on the subject.
History of Maple Tree Tapping:
American Indians would gash the maple trees, collect the sap and boil it down. There is no record of who actually invented the process of making maple syrup, but one Iroquois legend tells of Woksis, an Indian chief, pulling his tomahawk from a maple tree and going off on a hunt. The weather was warm and the gash dripped sap into a bark vessel under the tree.
My grandmother was American Indian, so the story and history were special to me.
Which Maple Trees To Tap:
Three species of maple trees are predominantly used to produce maple syrup and related products:
The sugar maple, the black maple, and the red maple, because of their high sugar content.
The sap of a maple tree comes out clear and very watery. It only contains a little sugar, about 2 to 4%. It usually takes about 10 gallons of sap to produce 1 quart of syrup.
If you are not familiar with trees or how to identify a maple, I suggest you do an internet search, purchase a tree book from a local book store or check one out from the local library.
Trees should be at least 10 to 12 inches in diameter (across) but in recent years many syrup producers have gone to a more conservative tapping guideline using trees that are 12 to 18 inches in diameter.
Measure the width of the tree about 4 ½ feet from the ground.
|Old tree tap and new at Slate Run Historical Farm|
Tapping a tree does create a wound, but it is a wound from which the tree can readily recover and does not endanger the health of the tree. Commercial syrup producers are able to tap trees for decades without adversely affecting the health of the tree. A vigorous tree will heal, or grow over, a tap hole in one year.
When To Tap:
Sap flow occurs during the dormant season, after the trees lose their leaves and when cool nighttime temperatures are below freezing followed by days when there is a rapid warming above freezing, ideally to about 40F.
Tapping for maple sap is generally done only in the spring when sap sugar content is highest.
Tap when suitable weather is predicted or watch the weather. Tapping can begin as soon as the end of January in some areas, if weather conditions are ideal.
In central Ohio, the best sap for maple syrup flows during February and early March. The sap of a maple tree comes out clear and very watery.
Remember: Sap contains a sugar content of about 2 to 4% and usually takes about 10 gallons of sap to produce 1 quart of syrup.
We have 10 sugar maple trees, maybe more if I search behind the barns.
I started with a tape measure to make sure the trees were large enough to tap. A few of them are large enough to have two spiles each, but we will only install one.
Next we found a smooth spot on the tree, (as smooth as a maple trees can be) so the buckets would hang better.
We used a portable battery operated screwdriver with a 7/16 inch bit to drill the hole.
The hole needs to be drilled at a slight upward angle so the sap will flow down the spile into the bucket.
The hole also needs to be drilled about 1 ½ to 2 inches deep.
Make sure to clean the wood shaving out of the drilled hole as much as possible.
Next insert the spile into the hole, (it will barely go in). Use a hammer and tap the spile firmly into the hole so it's snug.
Hang a clean bucket, milk jug or container under the spile to catch the sap, and make sure to cover your container so leaves, debris or rain do not get in the sap.
This is our first year to do the tapping, so I started out pretty cheaply.
|The spiles cost us $2.99 a piece at Tractor Supply.|
We copied our neighbors and purchased inexpensive (cheap) buckets at the Dollar Store and also used clean milk jugs.
In all honesty, the milk jugs so far work the best.
The first couple ones we used, we cut a large hole in the top. Not a good idea. Once the wind hits the milk jugs (and buckets too) they swing all over and some of the sap is lost or doesn't even make it into the containers.
This is a trial and error operation, haha.
We decided to place a wire around each bucket to secure them to the trees and prevent movement.
I also covered the buckets with plastic.
The next couple of milk jugs we used, I cut a much smaller hole and secured the jugs very close to the spile. Although milk jugs do not look as nice nor as "romantic" I suppose as the common metal sap buckets, they works perfectly!
|Old canning jar collecting sap|
It is an amazing site to go out first thing in the morning, like this morning and see the buckets and jugs nearly full! And the sugaring coming in February helps get me outside and gives me something to look forward to this time of year. February and March seem so long as I wait for Spring and gardening, this will help move time along for me.
So far we have gotten 5 gallons of sap in a little over 24 hours.
I am keeping the sap cold and tomorrow I start the boiling process!
Maple Syrup Making
Turning Sap Into Syrup
Malabar Farm Sugaring Festival
Homemade Waffle Recipe
Ohio Maple Syrup
National Maple Syrup Festival
“A sap-run is the sweet good-by of winter.
It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and frost.”
~John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886~
~John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886~