The first thing you have to do is make sure you have some maple trees! They are easiest to identify when you can see their leaves, but
unfortunately there are no leaves at sugaring
time. This means you either need to be able to identify the bark, or find the trees during the summer and mark them.
This is a tap, or spile. The right side goes into the tree (after you drill a hole) and the sap
drips out of the spout on the left. The bucket hangs on the hook. It's very helpful to have a lid on the bucket so that rain and snow don't dilute the sap. The lid usually attaches
through the hole at the top of the spile.
A tree should have a diameter
of at least 10 inches in order to be tapped. Trees bigger than 18 inches can have two taps in them.
During the winter maple trees store their sap in their roots so it won't freeze. When the
temperature goes above freezing, the sap moves up into the tree's branches. Each time the
temperature goes back below freezing, the sap
goes back down into the roots. As the sap moves up and down in the tree, we catch a little bit of it with our tap and bucket.
Once there is enough sap in the buckets on the
tree, we carry the sap back to the sugar shack. In
the sugar shack, we have a large flat pan on top of
a firebox. Once we have enough sap to start a boil, we get the fire going. It takes anywhere from 35 to 55 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. That means we have to boil away the other 34 to 54 gallons of water! That's a lot of boiling!
Boiling away that much water takes hours and hours. We try to keep the fire very hot to speed up the process.
Once enough of the water is boiled away, we have syrup!