It has been a couple of years since we tapped our trees,and this year we decided to give it a go again.
We sure picked a year with mighty strange weather for it.
If you are not familiar with making maple syrup,let me enlighten you! Maple trees,as you know,carry sap,which when it's boiled down,creates maple syrup. However,the weather dictates when and how long the sap runs. Usually sap season is about 6 weeks long,and tends to begin near the end of February-early March. Ideal weather is sunny,with daytime temps at 40-45 degrees and night time temps below freezing,though we have had sap run in the past with temps in the upper 30s during the day.This time of year, upper 30's-mid 40's daytime temps is fairly typical. However,this year is anything but.
The weather forecast at the end of last week seemed to predict pretty consistent day time temps of upper 30's to low 40's,and the day we decided to tap the trees was balmy for this time of year in NH( it was in the upper 50's in the sun by our thermometer) so we knew the sap would be running.
We washed all our buckets and spouts with boiling hot water-you don't want to use any soap. Rick got his drill and trusty old 7/16 bit drill with a 3/8 shank,and I carried the buckets and spouts (oh,and the camera!)
We only have Red and Silver Maples on our property,but you can still tap them. The syrup is lighter than what you would get from a Sugar Maple,but we still find it quite delicious. We had to make sure that we we kept a ways from the old holes from previous sap collection years ( at least 6 or so inches)so we had to find the old hole areas first. Trees 18"- 20" in diameter can take one tap;anything over can take 2. Some folks say to use no more than two taps per tree.
The hole should be about 2 feet from the ground. It was a bit tricky figuring that out,since we still have 3 feet of snow in some areas,but we did the best we could. The south side of the tree is best,but if you have more than one tap you should put move it to another area of the tree.
Here is Rick drilling a hole. It should be slanted upwards,to help the sap flow. It's also good to do over a root,if you can see the root! Not in our yard. We could walk across it in some spots,in others we sank down almost to our knees.
See the sap pouring out of the hole? The sap is running!
Tap your spout into the tree with a hammer. You can tell if you have seated it in the hole enough if the sap runs down the spout. If not,the sap will run on the sides of the tap. Sometimes,the sap will not run,and you have to seat the spout a bit more to get it going.
Place your hook on the spout,then hang the bucket on the hook. I tried to get a photo of the sap dripping into the bucket,but couldn't. It was great to hear the tap-tap-tap sound of the sap landing in the metal pails around the yard.
Place a cover over the bucket. This will keep rain,snow,and assorted debris out.
It certainly was a gorgeous day!
Unfortunately,the weather turned and we got a day with strong winds that made temps go below freezing,which stopped the sap flow,then a warmer day came,and the sap started to run again. Maple syrup producers have been less than happy with our colder than normal temperatures.It is making the season shorter. Sap season ends when buds start coming out on the trees-usually the end of March-beginning of April. When the buds come out,the sap will turn bitter.
We have 12 buckets going. We will see what happens!