For first time tappers (and sometimes, even seasoned sugarmakers), finding your sugar maples in the woods is much harder than you expect! You think you’ll remember where they are but when everything is gray, brown, and white, the trees start to look the same! And with no leaves (or even trails) to point you in the right direction, you’re standing in the cold trying to identify trees by the bark.
Make your life easier– and have a good excuse to visit the woods in the summer or fall – and go out and mark your trees while they’re in full leaf. The quickest method we’ve found is tying bright surveyor’s ribbon tape around the trees we plan to tap. This can be found at most hardware and home improvement stores or online and comes in a variety of colors. It’s weatherproof and slightly stretchy so it won’t constrict the tree. And it gives you a reason to go out and hug your trees (you know you want to)! For more advanced sugarbush keepers, this ribbon tape is also a good way to identify non-maple trees to be trimmed for easier access or trailmaking.
While you can tap soft maples, walnut, and birch (details on tapping those varieties here), sugarmakers choose hard maples because the sap has the highest sugar content (so much shorter boiling time) and sweetest, most robust maple flavor. If you’re still learning how to identify a sugar or hard maple, look first at the leaves and the seeds (aka spinners or helicopters). These will quickly give you the info you need to find the hard maples:
Hard maples (left) have more rounded leaf lobes; more brightly colored autumn colors
(especially reds and oranges), and drop seeds in the fall.
Soft maples (right) have more “toothed” or pointed leaf lobes, typically more yellow colors in the fall, and drop seeds in the spring.
Lots more identification tips can be found at this University of Maine Extension office article.
Since sugar shacks opened, pure maple syrup was graded by color and sugar content and each region kind of did its own thing. Yes, it was always sweet and delicious but the consistency across the country (or internationally) was just not there. So in 2014, the International Maple Syrup Institute proposed a change to the grading system which has been [...]
From the Paleo Diet to Sugarbusters to the South Beach Diet – every diet craze that’s swept the country has had one thing in common: avoiding refined sugars. But what to do when your sweet tooth doesn’t agree? Try pure maple syrup! This all-natural organic sweetener is completely unrefined (other than boiling off the water) and if you make [...]
Tapping season 2017 will be another year that most areas saw a very early sap run. In some areas, folks started collecting sap in mid-January and their sugarbush production has stopped or significantly slowed down. So does this mean the season is over?So many sugarmakers have been asking this question, we thought we’d go to [...]
Now here's some fun news from our friends in Canada. This innovative group is bringing sugarmaking to every urban backyard. Now in their second season, the Urban Sugaring Project offers homeowners the chance to rent a tapping bucket, bring their sap in, and go home with maple syrup. And, of course, have a delicious pancake [...]
Have you been thinking about starting a maple syrup business? Find out more from our friends at University of Michigan Extension. They are putting on an upcoming webinar which we thought you might be interested in. Hosted by Bob and Sue Battel of Battel's Sugar Bush, it will cover all the basics include tapping, collecting, [...]
For those of you who’ve joined our elite group (well, we’re not really elite but we do get to call ourselves sugarmakers which you have to admit is pretty cool!), the natural second season question is: how can I get more syrup? Well, as you’ve probably already guessed, you can only get more syrup by collecting more sap. [...]
Have you been waiting to try this hobby because it seems too complicated? We promise (and really, we’re not biased!!) that this is one of the easiest to learn and most fun for the family hobbies we’ve ever tried. Seriously give it a go this year, we know you’ll like it! And with all the [...]
Can we toot our own horn for a bit? Our book author, Julie Fryer, is now a regular contributor to the Mother Earth News Blog! This online resource is the go-to guide for homesteaders, do-it-yourselfers, gardeners, and just about everyone interested in the outdoors. Julie is posting a series of blogs based on her research and experience with [...]
Talk about easy, peasy, lemon squeezy! The Taps & Tube Kit has already done half of the work for you – 5/16” spiles are connected to the tubes which are cut to length and ready to go. All you really need to do is drill the hole, insert the tap, and thread the tubing into your bucket or [...]