My timing was slightly off this year. I thought I had a little more time before tapping season would start, but I was wrong. My good friend Charles, and also my mentor and motivation for getting started with backyard sugarin’, informed me that I should get busy this weekend. Starting today and through the next week for sure, we can expect day time temperatures in the mid thirties and below freezing at night, the perfect climate to make the maple sap run.
We are trying a few new techniques this year. First is home-made spiles, or spouts. Second, rather than using small buckets hung on the hook of a manufactured spile, we are running tubing to much bigger buckets. This allows us to collect more sap without it overflowing (hopefully!) The home-made spiles were made out of 7/16 diameter stainless steel piping. Each one is about three inches long with a forty-five degree angle cut on each end.
The first step in tapping a maple tree is drilling the hole. I like to use the old-fashioned hand powered drill, also known as a brace and bit. It feels a little more authentic but a power drill on a low setting will work just fine. I use a 3/8 of an inch spade bit to drill out the hole and shoot for about an inch and a half to two-inch depth on the hole. The hole should also be at a very slight upward angle. Once the hole is finished and cleaned out, either with the drill bit or a screwdriver, lightly pound in the spile.
The second step, if using a homemade spile, is connecting a length of tubing to the spile and then running it down to the bucket. I use 1/2 inch diameter tube and that has a nice tight fit over the spile. In the top of the bucket lid, use a 3/4 inch spade bit to drill out a hole for the tube to go through. If you are using a manufactured spile with a hook, hang a gallon bucket on the hook to collect your sap. If using this method you may want to rig up some kind of cover for the bucket so dirt and other foreign objects can’t get mixed in with the sap. As mentioned in Backyard Maple Sugarin’ Part 1, I highly recommend Backyard Sugarin’ by Rink Mann. He has a lot more information to add to this discussion and some great DIY ideas other than what I am talking about here.
The third step in this process is patience. For now there is not much else that can be done. We have our boulevard tree tapped, one at our neighbors, two giant old maples at my folks house, and maybe one more at another neighbors tomorrow. If the weather cooperates, the sap will start really flowing this week, and next weekend we will start cooking it down. There is more to come! Cheers.