The Cheap and Easy Way I Tap My Maple Trees for Sugaring (video)

Hi everyone! I’m trying something a bit different today. We’ve been fortunate to have sunny and gorgeous weather around here the past few days, which means that it’s time to tap maple trees for sugaring.

This is the fifth year that we’ll be making maple syrup as part of a community effort that involves three properties, nine core households, and a fair number of visitors. We tap 32 sugar maples that surround our house.

While we use traditional metal spiles (taps) and buckets in the neighbors’ woods, we have a cheap-and-easy set up at our house using a lot of free and borrowed materials: plastic spiles and short segments of tubing lead to 4-gallon buckets placed on the ground. It doesn’t get much easier than this:

We’ll be tapping the remaining trees this weekend and collecting sap for the next month or so. This is always one of my favorite times of year because it gives us something to do and a reason to be outside during that last bit of winter that can so easily lead to cabin fever. Stay tuned for updates!

Posts on how to make maple syrup:

Our woods on a sunny day in mid-March: perfect for tapping.

Getting Ready for Maple Syrup Season

Groundhog Day was last week. I have no idea what the groundhog’s verdict was this year, but it doesn’t seem relevant around here when the snow can stick around into April or even May. But, come to think about it, perhaps Groundhog Day does hint at one sign of spring:

It’s about six weeks until maple syrup season begins around here!

In fact, we just had a meeting this past weekend to make our neighborhood group of “sappers” into a full-fledged cooperative effort. This year, tapping day will be on March 11 or 18, depending on the weather between now and then. I wonder what the Groundhog would say about that.

Maybe you live in a place where you can start making maple sooner. Regardless, if you’re thinking about it, I thought you might be interested in this series of articles that I put together to help get you started:

If you’re looking for more information, the Tap My Trees website provides some more details for beginners. The Extension programs at Cornell University and the University of Vermont also have tons of information, especially for larger production systems.

Happy sapping! I’d love to hear about your maple syrup season!

Tapping Day

Saturday was tapping day, the day where we tapped more than 100 trees so that we can make maple syrup over the coming weekends.

I’ve decided that tapping day is one of my favorite days of this year. It doesn’t mark the actual start of spring, but it’s the clearest sign that spring is on its way. Tapping day is the beginning of the end of winter—a period of about 6 weeks during which the snow melts and everything that was buried starts to emerge.

I especially liked this tapping day because it was the first time I have been able to really be outside in quite a while. I had a nasty flu and am still recovering weeks later. I could only walk on snowshoes and carry buckets through the woods for so long, but it was a treat to be out and moving.

With the trees running as soon as we tapped them,  it won’t be long before we’ll be carrying buckets full of sap.


Make Maple Syrup (Part 3): The Boil

Now that you’ve tapped your trees and collected sap, it’s time to make syrup!

The General Process

Boiling sap down to syrup sounds pretty easy—and it is—but there are a few things to be ready for in advance. First, it takes a lot of sap to make syrup. An average yield is about 40 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup, although the actual amount will vary depending on the sugar content of your sap (as well as whether you tapped any red maple trees—either accidentally or on purpose!). This means that an awful lot of water needs to be boiled off and the boiling process will take a long time. It also means that you’ll want to boil outside so that you don’t steam up your kitchen to the point that it resembles a sauna.

Making syrup at the neighborhood sugar shack.

Continue reading “Make Maple Syrup (Part 3): The Boil”

Make Maple Syrup (Part 2): Tap Trees

As the days creep toward days above freezing, it’s time to tap trees and start collecting maple sap. In the previous post, you lined up the supplies that you’ll need: spiles, a cordless drill, a bit, containers, and a few other things.

Find the Trees

Of course, you’ll start by finding trees to tap. While you could probably make some type of syrup from just about any tree, the delicious syrup that you’ll actually want on your pancakes comes from sugar maple trees. Sugar maples have more sugar in their sap, which means that you’ll have to boil less sap to make syrup from a sugar maple than, say, a red maple.

Fortunately for me, this part of the world has tons of sugar maple trees.

Tapping day at our neighborhood sugarbush.

Look for healthy trees that measure at least 10” in diameter (that’s about 32” around if you have a cloth tape measure) about 3–4 feet above the ground. Trees with large crowns, such as yard trees, and a south-facing exposure are even better. Continue reading “Make Maple Syrup (Part 2): Tap Trees”

Make Maple Syrup (Part 1): Get Ready!

Making maple syrup is the perfect activity to say “goodbye” to winter and welcome the muddy, messy of year that let’s us know that spring is here. This four-part series will cover what you need to know to get started making maple syrup.

Yes, this series will include cookies!

How it Works

Maple syrup is concentrated from tree sap, which contains sugars that the tree uses to grow and develop. In the fall, while we’re busy taking photographs and enjoying glorious fall colors, the trees are hard at work moving carbohydrates (think: sugars!) and nutrients from the leaves down into their root systems to store them over the winter. Continue reading “Make Maple Syrup (Part 1): Get Ready!”

Mud Season: Maple Season

After another long and cold winter, it’s finally warming up. And we’ve been hard at work at our new mud season tradition: making maple syrup. Last  year, our neighbors’ started a bit of a community sugar bush, and it was a learning experience. This year, we know a little bit more about what to expect and our expanding.

Tapping Weekend

We tapped 32 trees on our property about a week ago, right before the first warm up. Then, this past weekend we expanded about 125 trees on two other properties.

Drilling a hole.
Inserting the spile.
A tapped tree (with sap already running).
Putting the bucket on the tree.

Want more maple goodness? You can check out the cookie recipe too!