2014 Maple Syrup Season Part 1


collecting maple sap tap trees

It’s maple sugarin’ season in Michigan! If I had been on my toes I would have tapped my trees on Thursday, March 6 as the weather conditions were just right for running sap – cold nights and above-freezing, sunny days. But alas, I’m a busy mom and I didn’t get to it until Tuesday, March 11. It was a beautiful, relatively warm, sunny day… and then that evening our lovely Michigan weather crashed from 40 degrees and sun to windchills below zero. (Hey, Old Man Winter – take your prozac, ok!?) Today the temperature has climbed to 22 degrees and tomorrow’s forecast currently calls for a high near 50. All of this up and down cold creates some serious weather-whiplash for us humans, butt the cold nights and warm days are great weather for collecting maple sap.

I won’t go into a ton of detail about how, when and why to collect maple sap because I wrote a pretty comprehensive post about it last year. (Click here to check it out!). This year I just wanted to give you quick update and to let you know that we’re trying something a wee bit different.

We have four maple trees on our property. I plan to tap all of them. Last year we gathered somewhere between 40 and 60 gallons of sap (maybe more) and we only tapped trees for part of the season. This year my goal is to collect 130 gallons of sap which, after all is said and done, should yield about 26 pints of syrup. We could easily go through a pint of syrup per week (maybe even two!). If we’re conservative, this yield would provide us with 1 pint for every two weeks of the year. Fortunately Papa has a large supply in case we can’t control ourselves…

Papa (my father-in-law) has become a very sophisticated maple sugarin’ guy with an evaporator that works really well. I’m hoping he’ll be able to help us boil down about half of our sap this year so that I have some assurance it will turn out well. However, I feel badly asking him to do a process for us that takes up so much time. This year I’m going to take a stab at building my own evaporator. I’ll share updates with you, likely in early April.

2014 is also the year I was hoping to start experimenting with syrup made from the sap of non-maple trees. This year I wanted to tap our existing apple tree, but after treking 200+ feet through 3′ deep snow I discovered that it was too small. Fail.

frozen gate deep snow

Even after above-freezing temps for two day straight, there’s enough snow (2-3 feet) blocking the gate that I have to climbing over the fence to get to the back part of the farm where the garden and micro-orchard are located.

So far the most prevalent information I’ve found on boiling down apple sap (sapple?) involves its use in Canadian hard cider. I have however found posts here and there on forums about folks who remember their grandparents making syrup from apple tree sap. From my research it appears that the sap is not toxic (which is… you know… good). I guess I’ll have to wait a few years until our oldest apple tree grows larger.

In the future I’d like to tap other non-maple trees. I did some preliminary research into the trees we have present on our property to see if any would be good candidates. I was especially interested in the idea of tapping mulberry trees since we have several. Turns out that the sap from mulberry trees can cause health problems and hallucinations. Do not tap mulberry trees! The other tree high on my I-want-to-try-it list is the black walnut tree. We don’t have one, but we have several neighbors who do. In fact various neighbors have both apple and black walnut trees… maybe we can talk them into letting us tap their trees if we share some of the resulting syrup!

collecting maple sap tap trees

For now though, the temperatures are below freezing and the tiny bit of sap I did collect last Thursday afternoon is frozen solid, hanging in jugs from our trees. I’m looking forward to the sunshine’s return for so many reasons!

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