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How to tap maple trees to make your own maple syrup

More and more people are trying their hands at homesteading and self-sufficient lifestyles.  Rather than depend primarily on grocery stores, the idea is to grow, or raise, one's own food.  Whether you choose to do this to save money, or due to a desire to eat more organically, those with a sweet tooth will be happy to discover making maple syrup is just one tree away.


Whether you've got a single tree, or a several acres available, the first step is to identify which of your trees are maple.  There are four main varieties--sugar, red, black and silver.  Mature trees will be at least 12 inches in diameter.  You can easily mark which ones you will be tapping later by tying brightly colored ribbons around them.  This is best done in the summer or fall when the leaves are still available for identification purposes.  It can be done once the leaves have fallen, but it requires a better knowledge of the bark and branches




During the off-season, you will also want to purchase the supplies for tapping so as not to take the chance of finding the shelves emptied by others who have played the game of procrastination, as well.  Not to mention, you might get lucky and find some off-season sales.  You will need spiles (taps), food grade buckets with lids, hooks (if hanging buckets directly from spiles), hose (if setting buckets on the ground), a drill with either a 5/16 or 7/16 bit (depending upon your spiles), and a rubber mallet to carefully insert the taps into the drilled hole.  Once the sap has been collected, you will need further supplies, such as food grade jugs to store it.


Sap flows typically flows mid-February to mid-March.  When the temperatures are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, it's time to tap.  If you have a number of trees to choose from, and are not intending to tap them all, choose those which receive the most direct sunlight.  Again, mature trees are at least 12 inches in diameter.  You can insert just one spile into each tree, but it is possible to use more.  Trees that are 21-27 inches can handle two taps and anything larger can have three.


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Troy Reid


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