The end of winter tends to be a barren time of year. Gardens are in the planning and planting stage. Most of the stored provisions from the previous year’s harvest are getting low. But even though the grass is brown and the trees still bear, there is a harvest to be reaped hidden deep in the heart of maple trees.
The unusual temperature variation in the months from January to March, found only the northeastern section of North America, is perfect for gathering maple sap. When the temperature dips below freezing at night and rises to the forties during a sunny day, we know that the sap will be flowing. On average, we harvest about ½ to 1 gallon of sap per tap per day. However, the greater the difference between night and day temperatures, the greater amount of sap will flow. On a good day like this, we can collect from 1 to 2 gallons of tap per tree depending on the health of the maple tree. Overall, we have gathered as much as 60 gallons of sap from nine maple trees, and because we only have a storage capacity of 25 gallons, we have been kept busy using and processing it. Indeed, our cup runneth over!
As you can see in the pictures, we have been tapping in a very unconventional way. We first selected the right trees: black and sugar maples with a diameter of at least one foot. Then we put together some ½in. PVC pipe which would transfer sap from the tree to a jug on the ground. This done, we drilled a hole 2in. deep into the tree about three feet from off the ground, stuck the PVC pipe about 1in. into the hole, and set a water jug underneath with a hole drilled into the lid. Then all we did was wait and let God deside how much sap He would give us. Though seemingly barren, the end of winter is now for us one of the most special times of year.
As a side note, we found out after tapping the trees, that drilling a 5/8in. hole into the tree to fit a 1/2in. pipe was not healthy for the tree. Next year we will drill a smaller hole so the tree will be healthy to produce sap for decades to come. Also, a great source of encouragement and advice for pursuing tapping came from Daniel Wilkes. We also learned much from these two web sites: Making Maple Syrup and Maple Syrup Production.
“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” Proverbs 10:22