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How & When To Tap Maple Syrup Trees & Off Grid Homesteading

We are in the end of January 2017 and I have already started to tap my maple trees. The sap was flowing heavily on this day as well. It was busy today at the off grid homestead.


Normally the maple sap flows near the end of February to the beginning of April some time. It varies and depends fully on the weather. The season lasts roughly six weeks during that period. The only way to know when the sap is flowing is to watch the temperature and tap a tree. When the daytime temperatures are above freezing and the night temperatures are below freezing then the sap will be flowing.


Setting up maple tree taps and jugs for collecting the sapSetting up maple tree taps and jugs for collecting the sap


But a brief thaw in January is not going to bring the sap flowing because the trees are deeply frozen. You need a longer period of warmer days in order to thaw out the trees and get the sap flowing.




Up to this day I have never even attempted to tap the trees earlier than mid February. But we have had a longer period of warm weather so I tapped a tree today and the sap was flowing heavily. Now I wish that I had tapped a week ago. I did go and tap as many trees as I could until I ran out of tubing.


I am using 5 gallon buckets and one gallon water jugs to collect the maple tree sap. I have 100 taps that I had ordered two years ago and I have 100 feet of tubing as well. All of the tubing had been cut into sections for the last year so I had ordered more tubing. But I cannot find the tubing right now. It never came until long after the maple season last year so I never even opened the box. Now I need it urgently.


I use a cordless power drill to put a hole about 1.5 inches to 2 inches deep into the tree at a slight upward angle. Some dispute if the upward angle is needed or if you should go straight in. I use the upward angle myself.


Some say to drill the hole at about 3 feet high and some say 6 for their comfort. I generally drill between those measurements but closer to 3 feet off the ground in order to use less tubing.


Then I use a rubber mallet from the dollar store to tap the spile (tap) into the tree gently. You want to close off the hole fully but not damage the tree by pounding it so hard that you split the wood.


Tapping Maple Trees In JanuaryTapping Maple Trees In January


Next I attach a length of tubing and put that into a hole in a container below. You can use any food grade water container to collect maple sap. The containers must be clean and sanitized. They cannot have held food or other liquids in the past because maple sap collects the smell and taste of other food easily. I prefer the five gallon food grade buckets from Tractor Supply or one gallon water containers. We have been buying water in one gallon jugs all year in order to collect enough containers for tapping all the maple trees that we found this year. Of course we drink the water but then we have a one gallon container later.


I found that if you try to buy a one gallon container online, it costs just about as much as the water. So we just drank the water and used the jugs for maple sap collection. We can use these for many years going forward so it is a good investment.

When I ran out of pre-cut tubing then I was done tapping for the day. I went back to the trees I had already tapped and found that I had collected as much as a third of a gallon of sap per tree on some of them. Considering that I only started tapping at 3 pm and the sap stops flowing after the sun goes down, I got a nice amount already.


Chris was out in the woods following me as I was checking the taps later on in the afternoon. He is excited about the maple syrup season this year as well. He will be running the wood stove and boiler while I run the sap collection. Melanie will be processing the boiled sap into syrup and canning it. We are all three going to be quite busy this year. But it sure is going to be fun.


I collected a gallon of the clean, pure maple water and gave Chris a glass. Maple water (sap) contains about three percent sugar. It has a mildly sweet flavor and is very refreshing and healthy for you. Chris consumes massive amounts of sugar on a normal basis so he did not taste the sweetness though. But he said it was the best water he ever had.


Maple sap contains all the nutrients of the maple tree. This is the life blood of the tree. So it is very healthy for us as well. Many health stores sell canned or bottled maple water.


We hope to try canning some of the maple water ourselves this year as well. And we may put some one gallon jugs of it into the freezer to replace the frozen water I keep in there. The water jugs help us keep the food frozen in case the freezer is off for longer periods. We are off the grid and in the middle of the woods so sometimes the freezer is off for a while if we do not get enough sunlight for a few days. We may as well have something useful in the freezer. It will be great to have a cold refreshing drink of maple water on a hot summer day.


This is also a homestead so it is not just about tapping maple trees. While I was working outside and on the computer inside, back and forth, Chris was cutting smaller branches for fire wood. We are processing all of our own fire wood this year for heating the off grid tiny house on wheels, the greenhouse and the water and battery shed. This takes a lot of wood so we are getting a head start for next year. The wood that we have been cutting now will be ready to burn next winter.


It started out a cold, cloudy day but the sun was coming out in bursts later on and the solar charge controller went into equalization mode. This gives the batteries a higher voltage and boils off the sulfation on the plates. This extends the life of the batteries. But it also means that I cannot run anything inside the off grid tiny house. The voltage is too high for the power inverter. So I manually shut off the equalize mode for now. I prefer to set it myself when I have time.


Two packages arrived with some orders that I had recently placed. One held an analog volt meter which I will use when restoring lead acid batteries. I am using a pulse motor to pulse high voltage spikes into badly sulfated lead acid batteries. This breaks up the sulfation on the plates and restores the batteries to usable condition. Sometimes they can be fully restored to like new or better condition.


I am also working on a huge pulse motor/generator which needs some super capacitors. For now I ordered five of them to use in testing the project. These are rated at 2.7 volts and 350 Farad. I will combine all five of them to give me enough voltage to run on my 12 volt generator.


I also installed a hydraulic shock to the screen door of the tiny house porch. The wind often is so bad that it rips the door out of our hands when we open it. The door is like a huge sail and the wind just grabs it powerfully. This shock absorber should hopefully help us keep a better grip on the door and prevent it from ripping open so fast. To protect the arm of the shock absorber I also put the chain back on the door. This will limit the door from opening too far.


Later in the evening inside the tiny house on wheels Melanie and I had some maple water. This was Melanie's first ever taste of maple water. This is our first fruits of the year from our own land. It feels good to be consuming the fruits of our own land like this. I love the stuff. Melanie was not sure at first and was making faces as she drank it. But later, at dinner, she asked that I serve the maple water with our meal. She must like it.


You can watch today's video here: Early Maple Tree Tapping & Off Grid Homesteading


While you are over there please subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow our daily videos as we strive to become self sufficient and off the grid on a budget.

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Troy Reid


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