We started maple tapping on Leap Day. I’ll take it as good luck sign! This sapping season is much earlier than usual for me thanks to the warm up we’re experiencing at the end of February. This made for perfect conditions to start sugaring. I usually don’t begin tapping until mid March. This year is a little different, which is fine by me. Early tapping helps to keep the collected and stored sap cooler so it lasts longer. There’s lots of snow still on the ground which I can use it to insulate my sap buckets and keep them cold.
It’s very exciting when it’s time to tap the trees and we get to take that first drink of the tree of life. The early Native Americans had sugar camps and would drink the sweet tree water to rejuvenate themselves from the long harsh winters. If you’ve never had fresh sweet maple water, you’re missing out.
I recruited my oldest to help out with tapping of my maples. He’s been a great help with setting things set up. It’s nice to have that extra helping hand, otherwise I’d be doing it all myself. This year I’ll be doing about 14 taps, which is plenty for us. Any more than that, and I’d have to set up a bigger boiling station.
Maple Tapping Spouts
When I tap my trees I keep the process real simple, which hasn’t affected the end result of my syrup. It’s absolutely delish and tastes like an exotic vanilla to me. The type of spouts I use are clear plastic. They can be found here. Some folks prefer to use the buckets or blue bags that hang directly on the tree. For me, this method did not work because my trees are heavy sap producers. The 5 gallon buckets barely keep up on a good day. I check my buckets twice a day because I’ve had them flow over in one day.
The blue tubing is a food grade 5/16 inch tubing that comes in a roll of 100 feet. So for me this has been enough for three seasons plus many more. I re-use my tubing and at the end of the season I rinse it out then soak it in hydrogen peroxide. After a good soaking I rinse them out a second time, let them dry, and store them for next year. If I see anything that doesn’t come out of the tubing, then I’ll discard it.
The buckets I use are also food grade. I purchase my buckets along with the lids at Menards . If you can’t find any in your area, try your grocery stores. Go to the bakery area and ask if they have any empty buckets available. Most likely will have had frosting of some sort in them. I just bring them home, wash them out, then run them through my dishwasher. This helps to get any residue or smell out of the buckets.
To get the tube into the bucket, I just drill a hole into the center of the lid using a drill bit that is the same size as the hose. I want the hose to fit snugly so it can’t slip out of the bucket. This also helps with keeping any rain out. Some folks drill holes on the side of their buckets, but this didn’t work very well for me. You should to do what ever works for you. Maple tapping is all trial and error. Not every method works for everyone.
In my area it gets quit windy – so much so that I’ve had my buckets blow over. So, when I put my lids on, I place a clean brick or heavy rock on top to hold it down.
Since we had a late start maple tapping on Leap Day, we ended up finishing by the light of moon. Tonight’s moon was at 32.8% Waxing Crescent. I’m a big lover of the moon, but that’s for another post.
Tomorrow, my sidekick and I will finish up and wait for the sap to flow!