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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Skills Saturday: Tapping Maple Trees

A sap-run is the sweet good-by of winter.  It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and frost. 
Jim Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886

We are trying a new skill today on Estle Schipp Farm.  We have never tapped our maple trees and it has been on our list of want-to-do's for quite some time.  I'm sending out a huge thank you to our daughters who gave us the tapping supplies for Christmas! 

Real maple syrup is so wonderful and as about a pure a product as you can get.  It is the concentrated sap of a sugar maple tree - that is it - not one other thing added.  What is sold on the grocery shelves as syrup is usually a form of corn syrup with artificial flavoring and coloring plus some additives to preserve the shelf life.  I was well into adulthood before I found out that what I had put on my pancakes all the years before was not real maple syrup. Stop using the fake stuff. Once you make the switch, you will be so glad you did. 

The resource I'm using is the website:  Tap My Trees.  Last fall, we marked the trees we planned to tap.  Update on that, we tacked a small piece of fabric to the trees so we could remember which ones to tap.  We tagged four trees but only found two tags.

Lesson 1:  Mark the trees better 

The next challenge was to figure out when to actually set the taps.  I've been closely watching the weather reports and the daily high and low temperatures.  Generally, the sap flow starts between mid-February to mid-March.  The sap will flow when daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temps below freezing.  Looking at the forecast for this week seemed promising. So off we went and set four taps.  

Bob drilled into the trees....I was expecting to see the flow begin immediately but it didn't.  The temperature was not above freezing when we tapped in the spiles so I'll be making frequent checks throughout the day as the temperatures rise. 

Lesson 2:  Sap flow depends on weather and it not always consistent.  Some days may have alot and others none.

If you look at all the supplies marketed to the process of maple sugaring, you may get overwhelmed.  I originally thought I needed several buckets, yards of tubing, an evaporator and various other supplies.  I'm glad that I re-thought that (especially on the hobby farm budget).  Use what you have!  Instead of buckets, I'm using 2 liter bottles and milk jugs as sap collectors and I'll use the electric roasting pan I already have to boil down the sap.  Good old canning jars will hold the maple goodness I hope to have by the time the season is over. The spiles/spouts were really the only necessary purchase.  

Lesson 3:  When trying a new skill, only obtain the minimally essential equipment necessary and expand from there if it is a skill you enjoy. 

I'm really excited to add sugaring to our growing list of hobby farm life skills.  I'll keep you posted on the progress!  

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp 

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