Monday, February 21, 2011

Maple Season Begins!

Yesterday we spent the whole day tapping maple trees.  The weather cooperated and we enjoyed lovely weather (for February)!

In the morning we worked in an area about 1/2 mile from our home that we've christened "The South Seven."  I tried to chronicle our morning in pictures.  Later in the day we moved to an area nearer to our home.

The tools:  We use a battery operated drill with a 5/16"-drill bit.  If you look closely you'll see some duct tape wrapped around the bit.  This acts as a guide to let us know how deep to drill into the tree.   The other tool we use is a rubber mallet to pound in the spiles.  

Our tubing lines run through the forest.  We've spent the past few years getting quite a spider web of these set up.  The sap from all the trees we tap runs down through these to a large tank at the bottom of the forest. 

Spiles hanging down waiting to be tapped into the trees. 

The very important workers:  (Heather and Petey opted to stay home and do dishes while we tapped this part of our lines).  They joined us later in the day.

The worker's helpers: Daisy and Candy Cane.  Petey can't come to this part of the forest because he tends to get bored and wander off - and there's a road with fast moving cars nearby. 

And the drilling begins.  Each hole must be drilled at a slightly downward angle so that gravity feeds the sap into the lines.   

John pounds in the spiles.  This is a delicate process!  There is a distinct sound the hammer makes as it hits the spile perfectly into place.  If you hit it again you'll split the tree and the sap will leak out around the tap rather than into the tap.  In later posts I hope to introduce you to the "Tap, Tap, Thunk" song.  

The spiles pounded into place.  We now wait for below freezing nights and above freezing days for the sap to "run".  In the bottom picture you'll find a perfect four year rotation of spile holes.  You don't want to girdle the tree by going in a line around it, so each year you follow a cross pattern.  This is our fourth year on this tree.  

Sometimes, as you drill the hole, the sap begins to run out of the tree.  You can just see a drop of sap dripping out of this tree.  

Whew!  The day warmed up and we started to shed layers!

We look for damage while we work.  In the top picture you can see a stick has fallen over a line.  The bottom picture shows squirrel damage.  They like to chew on the tubing - maybe they're bored, maybe they're tasting the sweet drops of sap left in the lines - nobody knows, but it's a pain in the neck to replace these sections!

I paint a maple tapping scene on old-fashioned maple buckets and I'll often use greens, grays, and other colors in my trees.  The palette found in nature is amazing!

I don't know who put this up in the middle of the woods, but this Old Man of the Forest (who, every year, makes me jump!) wishes us a happy tapping season. 

... and after yesterdays beautiful day, we woke up to this (there had been zero snow on the tables and deck):

Now, we watch the weather, the temperature, and the wind direction, and hope to find tanks brimming with maple sap!


  1. I hope you continue to post about gathering sap and making syrup. I'm so interested in this!

  2. I enjoyed your post! We tap maple trees, too, but on a much smaller scale-just about 8 trees & we use buckets instead of tubing. It looks pretty, but is so much work. Hope you gets lots of sap!! Holly