For years my husband has talked about tapping the maple trees on our property. Originally, I thought this was a bit extreme – who does that? What’s wrong with Aunt Jemima on our pancakes? And who wants to be lugging pails of sap around in the cold winter weather. Well as it turns out – I do.
The process of collecting sap, boiling sap and enjoying our very own maple treats has been an amazing journey of living, learning and loving the amazing gifts which can be harvested from our own backyard. It is amazing to me that such rich resources are truly at our fingertips yet people think they are so far out of reach. Tapping trees for maple sugar was once a practical way to supplement folks pantries, wallets or whatever they may have needed to trade for. Have you ever seen a farm lane bordered with maple trees? That was likely somebody’s tap line in years past. Often trees were planted along lanes and roads where they were easy to access in the mucky weather that late winter brings. The good news is you don’t need to have a homestead, farm or woodland property to tap into this educational journey this winter. All you need is:
- a maple tree (or a few) which is at least 10″ in diameter
- empty milk jugs and string
- taps ($1/tap from Leader Evaporator)
- cordless drill and hammer
- large pot for boiling sap (a candy thermometer is handy too)
My goal is to help you and your family enjoy this sweet project in whatever way it is most meaningful to your educational journey. Who wouldn’t enjoy a unit study on something as tasty as maple syrup? Weather you wanted to dive into the history of sugar shacking and northern Appalachia, the science of how the sap flows (which is fascinating by the way), an exploration in season changes and weather patterns, more math and science as you evaporate your sap and condense the syrup or just enjoy a good reason to get outside during the longest grayest part of the year – this is a great hands-on learning experience.
I will keep you posted with the information you need and the steps you should be taking to prepare for tapping this year. Please know this is a doable project. While your yields may be small and your syrup may not be perfect by the standards of professional sugar shackers, the experience is educational for everyone involved. Nothing beats learning about the resources in our own backyards and the science that makes them work. After tasting your own maple syrup you will never look at a maple tree as just a shade tree again. Our friends and family enjoyed sharing the experience with us last year and are already asking if they can come up and partake in the process again this year.
Start saving your one gallon milk and tea jugs. With Christmas coming and preparations underway for meals and guest, this is a great time to rinse and save your one gallon plastic jugs for use as sap buckets later.
Next week I’ll give you more information on the time line for this project and ordering taps. Other post will include selecting and tapping trees, sap collection, sap storage and sap boiling. Not to mention a few of the wonderfully insightful videos we used during our rookie year of sugaring. Hang in there with me – on a small scale tapping trees can be simple and fun. Please keep me posted on your adventures in maple tapping!