Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting ready for maple sugaring

Mike and I went into the woods on Saturday to identify trees. We wanted to see what kind of maple and oak trees we had, because acorns from the oaks can be used to feed pigs, and the maple trees can be used for making maple syrup for the humans. Acorn harvest has already begun, but I'll talk about that tomorrow.

As for the maple trees, we found more than a dozen large, old trees, and almost all of them are sugar maples. Although you can tap any kind of maple tree, the sugar maples have the highest yield of sap. You can tap a tree once it has grown to 10 inches in diameter, and you can add another tap for each additional six to eight inches in diameter. If the books are correct, this means we could easily have a couple dozen taps, because the trees are big enough to support two or three taps each. I had to post a picture of Mike next to a tree, because the trees look really small if there isn't a person in the picture. Even this tree looks small if you cover up Mike, but we can't get our arms around it.

This also means that my cabin in the woods may be moved closer to the top of the to-do list. I've been wanting a cabin in the woods, but it always seemed like one of those "nice to have" things, rather than anything practical. However, it takes 35 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, and how far do you want to carry all that sap before starting to boil it down? However, this also means that we probably won't be taking advantage of all our maple trees next spring, because there are two separate groves on opposite ends of our property.

Our next step is to somehow mark the trees so that at the end of February or in early March when there are no leaves on the trees, we'll know which ones are maples. I am really excited about making our own syrup, because having a homegrown sweetener will get us one step closer to true sustainability.

5 comments:

Christine said...

I want a cabin in the woods too. I already have my spot picked out for it. Good luck with your tapping. I'll be looking forward to seeing how that turns out.

CONEFLOWER said...

This is very exciting! My parents took me to a maple sugar cooking place (there must be a correct name for it) when I was a little kid about 60 years ago. Egads! It was great fun and smelled fantastic. You could always get a couple stocky ponies to pull a sled with sap barrels on it from one grove to the cooking place.

Keep us posted on the sugar maples. They are so beautiful in the fall too.

melanie said...

Tapping is lots of fun, addictive, and a great way to secure sweetener.

The place it's done is called a sugar shack. (for Coneflower)

But the reality is actually 40 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup IF you have the optimum sap season, tree quality, etc. Plan on 40-45 gallons. Not to mention quality of the "burn" which has everything to do with what type of fuel you use, where you cook, how hot you run the evaporator, etc.

Once you get started, it's very addicting. Start collecting recipes now - it's a whole different ball game cooking with liquid sweetner - but Oh! so worth it!

Deborah said...

Coneflower, I had a boyfriend in college who was from Vermont, and he took me to a sugar shack once when we were visiting his parents. It's one of those things that's been burning in the back of my mind all these years! It really did look like fun.

Melanie, I already have a recipe for ginger snaps that my daughter loves to make. I figured out the cost with store-bought maple syrup, and it's about $5 for two dozen little cookies. Yikes! We do have plenty of wood around here, so hopefully we can get a good, hot fire going.

Kristin said...

Now I'm excited for late winter :-) We realized how easy it is to tap trees last year at an event, but we couldn't find the spiles anywhere. I made one, but by then it was too late. My husband said he's excited to try it this year too.

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