Saturday, March 7, 2009

Soooooooooo Cute.

Hey, Tiger!
Hank - 4 months (late 2/2009)

Gimme Some Sugar!

Spring is knocking. You can feel it. The days grow warmer, even as the nights retreat in to the memory of winter's frigid grasp. This warm/cold cycle can mean only one thing - sugaring season! For me, sugaring season means tapping the 2 very large maple trees in our back yard.

My neighbor kindly borrowed me his handy dandy cordless drill, fitted with a 1/2" bit. I gathered up all the items needed to get my journey to maple syrup started, and hit the back yard. First, I chose fairly clear areas on the bole of the tree, about 3' up. Then, began drilling on an even plane, and once past the bark layers angled the drill upwards slightly. Assembled the bit, and using a heavy plastic mallet, drove the bits in to the 1-1/2" deep holes. There! Ready for action, almost.

If I were to leave the tap open like this, all the precious sap would drain on to the ground around the tree, and likely result in very, very, very hyper squirrles. Imagine a dripping faucet, but instead of water, the leak is of weak soda. Now imagine your (or your friend's) children drinking this... all day long. Insanity. That's what squirrels do in the Spring, and it is pretty humorous to watch them tweak out. Neither here nor there, I'm not going to give those rat bastards a chance to pilfer the sweetness that will be transformed in to the best maple syrup I've ever had!

So, on go the bags.

The sap isn't flowing right now, but I'm not worried. Last year it took almost 2 weeks before the sap started, but when it did, I was harvesting 5+ gallons a day off 2 taps and yielded around 60 gallons. This year I have 4 taps and am hoping for 100 gallons or more. As I have silver maples, it takes a bit more volume to yield syrup than, say, a sugar maple. From last year's production, it looks to be about 50 gallons sap to 1 gallon finished product... but, my recall may be a bit skewed, it has been a year already. I believe the typical sugar maple yield is 30:1.

Shortly I expect to come home after work to sap gorged bladders. Awesome! In about a month or so I will be setting up the sugar shack in my garage. Last year it took aaallll day to boil down my yield. This year, if I get as much as I want, it's going to take the entire weekend. I may have to make a party of it and get some helpers. I may try my hand at maple candies, or maple sugar. Lots of options! Last year I made some maple cream and it was awesome.

It's pretty labor intensive, but the education you receive is priceless. Although I have a degree in Forestry, tapping and harvesting has taught me things about my trees and the environment that I could never get from a book. And, not that I had any shortage of it before I started doing this, I have a greater respect for the processes of the natural world. It is a rewarding endeavor, and I'm excited for this year's offering!