Tapping Trees

A couple of people have expressed interest in seeing more about making maple syrup, so I headed on over to the farm today to visit everyone tapping trees.  I’m no expert, but I used to help when I was a kid and I understand the basic process.  If you would like to learn to make maple syrup, I suggest you speak to people in your area for more specifics.

Step 1: Gather materials.  A big family (or lots of friends) is important, because lots of hands make quick work.  You’ll also need:

  • Farm Dogs- They’re not required, but why wouldn’t you want to bring the dogs along?



  • Transportation vehicles- Again, not required, but they make it more fun. 

My cousin’s truck: Big Blue

Nate on his quad cutting off me and Jon on the gator. See mom? I told you I had proof!

  • Oh yes, you can’t make maple syrup without: maple trees, drills, quills, hooks, pails, covers, tubing.

Step 2: Drill holes in the maple trees.  We used to use hand-drills when I was little, but now battery drills are much faster.

Um, Dad, I seem to remember that you’re not supposed to climb ladders due to your bad back!!!

Drilling a hole

The bigger and older the tree, the more taps you can put on it.

Step 3: Hammer in the quill. A quill is like a little spout that allows the sap to pour out.

Step 4: Hang pails or attach tubing. We use both pails and tubing to collect the sap.  They each have their own advantages.

Pails have a nice old-fashioned look to them.  The disadvantage is that you have to collect sap from them every day to avoid overflow. 

They also have covers, but I forgot to take pictures of them…

Tubing for sap lines is convenient because it runs from tree to tree and collects in a container.  The advantage is that you don’t have to collect sap every day, it runs right into the collection tank.  However, it just doesn’t have the same New England rustic appeal that the metal pails have.

After the trees are tapped, you hope for the perfect weather for the sap to run.  Temperatures need to be freezing at night, but above freezing during the day.  When you get enough sap, you can start boiling it down in the sugar house to make maple syrup.  It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.


Filed under Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, Sustainable Living

13 responses to “Tapping Trees

  1. I think I’ve said this before, but I love maple syrup and am very sad that you can’t get it locally. I’ve heard of some experiments in tapping trees here in the Pacific Northwest, but I don’t think they produce the same yields or quality as New England or Quebec. So I continue to import my maple syrup.

  2. i loved making maple syrup when i was a kid. my favourite, making taffy by dumping it in the snow (back then we didn’t worry about acid rain snow…). 🙂

    One nice think about living in Nova Scotia is the loads of local maple syrup, or syrop d’érable 😉


    • I must admit… I hated coming home from school and trudging around in the snow. I remember wishing I could be my friends at home, playing video games or watching TV. I realize now how lucky I was!

      We never made taffy out of it, but my great-grandmother made maple sugar candy. Now, my father-in-law is the maple sugar candy expert. Maybe I’ll get him to let me take pictures for a tutorial of that!

  3. so cool! thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Ab,

    It was fun having you over today to join in the fun! I may have to post pix of the very pregnant woman who appreciates the process now, even though she didn’t think it was so much fun as a kid! Funny how our perceptions change . . .

    Thanks, too, for the great shots and evidence. I’ll talk to Nate . . . and Dad . . . about both of their indescretions!


  5. I’m going to try it for the first time tomorrow! Thanks for the hints!

  6. Thanks Abbie,

    I was thinking about putting some sugar maple in here but from what you said I don’t think that we would meet the climate conditions necessary, very seldom freezes here even overnight. Even on those odd cases where it does you wouldn’t get the warning to be able to tap trees.

    If a tree is tapped how long theoretically would the tap stay open/operational if it wasn’t getting sap flow?

    Kind Regards

    • I don’t know where you are, but if nobody in your area makes maple syrup, there’s probably a good reason for that! I don’t know how long it would stay open, but think about it this way: you need to boil it down in a 40:1 ratio to get syrup. So if you want a pint of syrup, you need 40 pints of sap. It will go bad within a week if you don’t boil it down, so you probably wouldn’t be able to make it work if it didn’t run very often.

  7. Thanks Abbie,

    I am in one of the cooler areas of Australia.. sounds like it would only work up in the high country around the snow fields, not down where I am.

    Might put my feelers out and see if anyone around those areas has trees and is interested in doing an experiment.

    Kind Regards

  8. 40 to 1! Can’t imagine the patience involved.

  9. I wish I lived closer. I would love some of your maple syrup. 🙂

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