A New Venture: Collecting Sap for Maple Syrup

Our farm is woven into a few hundred acres of woods. Fences wind across the creeks and up the sides of the hollers, and the livestock graze among the trees. I often walk along the fences in the woods to look for spots that need repairs. Sometimes, Jeff would join me while we were getting to know each other.

“This is a really nice patch of woods, Elise,” he would say. He’d tell stories from one of his college courses in which he learned how to gather sap from maple trees in the spring. “I’d really like to do that again.”

A couple of weeks ago, he scouted out four trees along the road, drilled holes in their sides, and secured spiles in the holes. He then pushed a short piece of plastic pipe over the spout of the spile. The end of the pipe dropped through the narrow opening of a milk jug, which he secured to the spile with twine.

2020 sap set-up in milk jug
Sap set-up.

Traditionally, galvanized buckets have been used for sap collection, but recycling milk jugs for the process works well, too, and easily keeps out critters with its narrow opening.

Since tapping the trees, we have collected a little under 20 gallons of sap. Over the weekend, the sap froze, and not much flowed from the trees. We took what we had to a neighbor’s sugar shack and poured the sap into a 55-gallon drum after straining it through cheesecloth.

2020 Sap in 55 gallon drum
Sap in the 55-gallon drum at the sugar shack. Once more sap is collected, our neighbor will start boiling. We’ll go help out, too.

This morning, I collected two-and-a-half gallons from just two trees! The weather (cold nights, warm days) this week will encourage a nice sap run.

While Jeff had experience with maple syrup production, this is new to me. I’d enjoyed watching the process from afar in previous years, but now, we’re finding our own maple trees and collecting our own sap. It’s fun to see how much sap has drained into the milk jug each day!

We have more than 20 gallons to go before we can create a gallon of maple syrup, but hopefully, with this week’s predicted good weather, we’ll be able to gather that and more.

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