Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maple Sugarin' Days

It's maple sugarin' time when the daytime temp is around 40 but the nights are around 20. That's the last few days, so now that our backyard maple tree is just barely big enough to tap (10" diameter) I decided to tap it for the first time.

I don't have the metal spiles (spigots you hammer into the tree) or the hangy-buckets or the lids for the hangy-buckets and I refuse to buy stuff for every darn thing I feel like doing. So I decided to go DIY.

I figured that old-time Vermont farmers miles from the general store wouldn't travel for or maybe even have money for store-bought spiles and likely made their own. So I looked around for a hammerable tube. Aha--I DO have backyard bamboo! I cut a stem a bit over 1/4 inch wide. I cut one section about 6 inches long between joints, reamed it out manually with a narrow drill bit, and blew out the papery lining.The bamboo was a bit thicker than my drill bit, so I whittled a very slight taper on one end.
I drilled a hole about 1 and 1/2 inch into the tree, on the sunniest north side and slanting upward into the tree to aid drippage. I wanted to use my old-timey hand-crank drill but the bit I wanted wouldn't fit, so I used the cordless drill. IMMEDIATELY the hole began to drip!
I hammered in my bamboo spile and it worked--sap began dripping from the end at the rate of 1 drop per second. Instead of the hangy-bucket, I repurposed a section of old broken garden hose, trimmed its ends, washed and rinsed it, and fed it into a washed vinegar jug. Dug the jug into the ground a bit to keep it from tipping. The sap was dripping into the jug successfully. Here's hoping I'll get enough to boil down into syrup to surprise my husband!


Dusty D said...

Check out those pruners in the first pic. Those are my new pruners, a present from my husband--they are Fiskars, top of the line, replaceable blade, lifetime warranty. Very geeked about them and with nearly 20 fruit trees in the yard I'll be using them a lot in the next month or so!

Anonymous said...

Remember, the ratio is 32 to 1, so get ready to boil like crazy. We did this one year and removed the wallpaper in the kitchen from the boiling. Have fun. You aren't the only ones doing this. Check out E. Forest & Hemphill.

Dusty D said...

Yes sir/ma'am, that's good advice...I've read lots of warnings about the endless volume of steam, phew. Also that it's better to boil it outide over a wood fire for a nice smoky tang...and I COULD do that, but we don't really have enough wood on hand for hours of outdoor boiling.

I'll definitely check out Forest & Hemphill (curious now!)

Dusty D said...

UPDATE: Tapped March 15, first harvest March 17. 9 cups syrup = 1/2 gallon + 1 cup total thus far.

Dusty D said...

UPDATE: Harvest March 27, added 7 cups to previous 9 cups from March 17 = 16 cups, or exactly 1 gallon. Boiling it down now; we'll see how much we get.

It's late in the season now; might not get much more. I'll start earlier next year, but it was fun nevertheless.