Today, I embarked on a new adventure: learning how to tap a maple tree. This is the story of how I got started with this fun new hobby, all with the purpose of making my own maple syrup.
Day 1 of a new hobby
Not sure yet if this is good logic or bad logic, but I tapped the two maple trees today, January 19, 2019, with one tap each, facing South. Here is the weather forecast for today:
My thought process was that, while today might not be a good day. Tomorrow might? I’m not sure if warm in the evening will cause flow the same way warm temperatures during the sunlight does.
Um…guess I should have Google’d that first.
But what I do know is that there’s a cold snap that is about to hit, and Wednesday, Thursday look like good ‘sugaring’ days…I think…
There were three factors which made me decide to learn how to tap a maple tree today.
First, my schedule was relatively un-booked and with the MLK holiday on Monday, it was a long weekend…score!
If the trees produce any sap, I will be around to cook it right away (mmm…instant gratification)
Finally, since I have silver maple trees, not sugar maples, I know my season ends early because the tree creates buds earlier than silver maples and therefore the late season sap will be more bitter.
We will see if this works or if it is a bust.
If you have experience tapping trees, I’d love it if you could comment below and let me (and anyone reading this) know whether this logic is any good.
I bought this maple tapping kit from Amazon:
This kit came with the following:
- 5 maple tap spiles (5/16 inch OD) with 3-food drop lines (attached
- 1 x 5/16 inch drill bit
- Instruction manual
For collection, I’m going to use some clean aquarium salt buckets. I cleaned them out with a dilute bleach/water solution and rinsed heavily.
If you don’t have food grade buckets at home, you can use gallon water jugs or buy buckets like mine at Home Depot or Lowes.
I did have to use a bigger bit I had at home to drill into the top of the bucket. I didn’t have the exact size for the outer diameter of the drop line, so I just wiggled the bit around to extend the hole until it was large enough.
Glad to note that here to see if that causes any problems with seepage or bugs later on since it won’t be a snug fit. My thought is that I don’t want a perfectly snug fit, because I want the air pressure to release as the bucket fills.
Drilling the holes for the maple taps was easy.
I measured 1.5 inches and marked it on the drill bit with a Sharpie marker.
I have read online that you should drill at a slightly upward angle and also at a straight angle.
Since my SPILE is a 90-degree angle sort of thing, I just drilled straight. Will see if that causes any complications
The SPILE went in really easily. By hand, the SPILE in tree #1 (closest to the house) went in about 25% of the way easily before needing to be tapped in with a rubber mallet.
I had to hit it pretty hard to get it to go in—not like it caused a lot of exertion, but it was certainly a deliberate hit.
Tree # 2, the SPILE went in about 3/4 of the way before needing to be tapped. This one just needed to be tapped gently to get it to go in.
Where to tap a maple tree
I tapped both trees on the south-facing part of the tree. The exact location was determined by some loose estimation of where there was a nice flat spot in the bark, at a location facing mostly Southward, where the 3-foot line would reach my bucket at a relatively flat spot.
I had read somewhere that the Southside would receive the best sun and therefore the sap would run the best…not sure if it’s true…but I figured it’s a decent place to start. Not that it really matters, after a few years, I’m going to have to encircle the tree anyway…
I also read that it’s best to put it under a big branch or over a big root.
This makes a lot of sense to me.
The sap should be running from the root to the branches…a big root likely stores more sap and a big branch probably consume more sap than a small branch.
However, I only remembered that little tidbit after I drilled the hole in Tree # 1…so that location was picked without regard to branches.
What happens after you tap the maple tree
I sort of hoped that something would happen as soon as I tapped the tree. I wanted to see the tree dripping…it wasn’t…which I am pretty sure is confirmation that I tapped too early in the season. We will see.
About 30 minutes after tapping, at 33 degrees Fahrenheit, there was only the slightest bit of moisture at the very top of the line. Nothing to write home (or online…) about.
Okay, well I did write online about it, but I’m telling you, it was no big deal.
It also confirms that I’m impatient.
For more information
For more information about how to tap a maple tree, check out this YouTube video:
Want to read more? Check out the next post in the series, here.