Maple Syrup Tree Tapping part 1

My grandma was a big fan of the author and illustrator Tasha Tudor and thus, she passed that interest onto me. My grandma, and I’m guessing Tasha Tudor, probably play a good part in my interest in homesteading and living the simple life. If you would have asked me about my future when I was in high school, I would have told you my dream was to live out in the country and homestead. Well, I pictured myself as an artist working out in a small homestead. Now, many years later I have traded in some of those country dreams for others, but I will always be very interested and passionate in learning and using self sustaining techniques in my more suburban life.

Winter hiking on solid, thick sheets of ice can be interesting, fun and there might be a few frozen tears on your cheek when you're through. This morning I got my #TashaTudor on and we learned all about maple syrup production. I'm kinda excited because we have 3 maples in our yard that would qualify. Now, if it would only get warm enough!

A few weeks back my family and I went to Russell Woods, a local forest preserve for their annual Maple Syrup Fest, where they have tree tapping demonstrations. Unfortunately, Northern Illinois was having one of the longest, coldest and snowiest winters in recorded history. They showed us everything they could but we didn’t really get to see any sap running.

Fast forward to mid/late March and the majority of the snow has melted and days are more frequently above freezing, than below.

45 degree heat wave, so I decided to walk home from work (maybe not the best idea)

I even was able to walk home from work one day last week. It was kinda muddy (to say the least).

One thing I learned at the Maple Syrup Fest was that it doesn’t take a very specific kind of Maple Tree to get syrup. In fact, you can tap all kinds of trees (Birch, walnut, etc.) and get different kinds of syrup! She said that most of the maple trees at Russell woods are the kind that have leaves that turn yellow in the fall (Silver Maples), but that most Maple syrup farms harvest from trees that turn red orange and yellow in the fall (Sugar or Red Maples).

Ahem, maybe kind of like the maple trees in my yard (documented here last fall!

Yahtzee, I have trees that I could tap in my very own property! We purchased some spiles (the taps) from tapmytrees.com via amazon, borrowed a wireless electric drill and 7/16″ drill bit from my dad, saved a few milk jugs (as recommended at Russell Woods), bought a couple larger food grade buckets, and rubber hose from the hardware store and we were on our way!

Today my sister and I tapped two of the maple trees in my yard. We are finally having days above freezing. I was so amazed at how easy it was. One second I'm drilling the hole and saw dust was coming out and then the dust turned to mushy pulp and the sap

All in all, it took only minutes to put everything together, drill the hole and start collecting, as seen above. It was so exciting to watch as the saw dust being drilled out of the tree quickly turned to a wet pulp, which then turned to drips of liquid. We each dabbed our finger into it and could taste the sweetness. All the same, it can take 40 parts of tree sap to boil down to 1 part syrup. Naturally after we tapped the trees yesterday the temperature dropped below freezing again so collection will slow down. I’ll check back in again after we’ve collected and cooked down our syrup this first year.

If you are interested in tapping your own trees I recommend researching online, there are plenty of sites with information and videos. The site that our spiles came from (tapmytrees.com) seems very thorough with plenty of information and videos, but this is in no way a sponsored post.

Part 2 can be read in all of it’s lengthiness right here

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