This will be the fourth year we have harvested sap to make into maple syrup. Like gardening or farming, maple syruping ends up being a (sometimes cruel) game you have to play with Mother Nature.
Unpredictable is the name of the game. And this year she is being extra devious!
You probably know that maple sap starts to flow when temperatures during the day are above freezing, and temperatures at night are below freezing. Depending on the weather in a particular year, the sap-running window can be a couple days to many weeks long.
The additional guess-work comes in because you have about three weeks before the tree starts to heal the hole you’ve made for draining the sap. You don’t want to tap too early, but you don’t want to tap too late. We follow some Minnesota and Wisconsin maple syrup groups and forums to see what everyone else is doing. But in the end, you just can’t know what the weather will do.
So if there is a warm week and you put your taps in, but then there are two cold weeks…well, you’ve wasted a lot of your opportunity. Which is what we are dealing with right now.
We have only seven taps, or spiles as they are technically called.
The spiles are in four different trees: two Autumn Blaze Maple, one Silver Maple, and one Boxelder.
So far only the Autumn Blaze Maples have produced any quantity, which could be because of their locations related to snow pack and positions related to the sun.
We’ve never actually tapped Sugar Maple trees before. We’ve only had access to Silver Maples in the past, and we’ve been quite happy with sugar content of the sap and quality of the finished syrup.
The Autumn Blaze Maple is a cross between a Red and Silver Maple, so we think that it will produce fine syrup. We can already tell the sugar content is decent because our hands get sticky after touching the sap.
We tapped two weeks ago and to date have gotten 12 gallons total.
We are keeping the Box Elder sap separate and will boil it separately from the other Maple’s. This is our first year trying this type of tree (which is actually a type of Maple tree) and we are curious to see what it tastes like. And we want to try for some Black Walnut syrup next year!
Our goal is 60 gallons of sap. That is what we got last year and we still have syrup left, so that seems to be about the perfect amount for us for the year. We hope to get around the same number of gallons this year.
Of course, if Mother Nature allows.
Are you tapping and trees?
Any non-traditional tree species?