It’s that wonderful time of the year again: maple tapping season in Wisconsin! The temps have begun to warm up above freezing during the day time, while dropping below freezing at night time. This is the time I keep a very close eye on the weather. When we have at least a week straight of the right temperatures, I drill a test tap to see if any of that sweet delicious maple water is running. I’d say most folks don’t do a test tap, they just go for it all right away. For me I like to test one tree to see if it’s flowing before tapping them all. I don’t want to tap to early and run the risk of my trees not producing from the taps, then having to re-drill new holes for the sap to run.
Speaking of drilling: always disinfect your drill bits for the safety of the tree. Depending on which spout you’re using, the most common sizes are 7/16 inch and 5/16 inch. For the 7/16 inch spout, drill a hole, at an upward angle, that is 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. For the 5/16 inch spout, drill a hole that is 1 1/4 inches to 2 inches deep. When tapping in your spouts, tap gently so not to split the wood.
I usually check the first tap twice a day, watching and waiting to see if that clear sweet liquid is going to flow. When it does, I do a little thank you and victory dance! I also like to brew a coffee or tea made with my first bucket of maple sap.
For me, that special treat marks the kickoff for maple tapping time in Central Wisconsin!
A Variety Of Ways
For us backyard maple tappers, there are a variety of ways you can go about collecting your sap.
Some of the easiest methods include simply using a five gallon bucket on the ground, with a tube connected to the tap draining into it, or the smaller aluminum or plastic sap collector buckets that you hang on the spout. Another easy and inexpensive way to collect the maple sap is with the bag method. This requires a metal bag holder that comes apart. A metal band slides out which you’ll slide the bag through. Then, fold about three inches of the bag over the band You’ll securely locks the bag in place, then slide the bag covered band back inside the holder. There’s a hole on the back of the holder that you mount over your spill. The sap will trickle down into the bag. It’s easy to assemble and only takes a few minutes.
Tips Using Buckets
Always make sure your buckets have been cleaned thoroughly before using them. Avoid using soap so you don’t have soap residue in your sap. I use a bit of bleach with very hot water, wash well, then rinse well and dry.
You’ll also need to drill holes either in the upper side of your five gallon buckets, near the rims. Or, like I do, drill holes through the top of the center of the lids. There is no right or wrong way here. It’s all a matter of how you want your sap to flow in your buckets from the food grade tubing.
If this you’re first time as a Back Yard Maple Tapper, once you’ve boiled down your first batch of maple syrup, you’ll be hooked for life. Soon you’ll be adding to the number of taps. It gets in your blood and you’ll be planning for next years sugaring before you’re done with the first year. I wish all of you, from the beginners to the pro-seasoned sugar makers, a great sugar season. Happy Tapping!