You know what that means! No? You don't? It means that it's time to tap the maple trees!!
Since I still have the vast majority of the three gallons of syrup I made last year, I decided to only tap six trees this year. I could probably skip syrup making entirely, but you never know what the run will be from one year to the next. If next year is awful weather-wise, and I don't tap at all, I don't want to run out of maple syrup. So, I'm tapping this year and making syrup, just in case. An insurance policy, if you will.
Last year, I found and purchased (for cheaply) a bunch of food-grade 5 gallon buckets with lids to store my sap in between when I collected it from the tree, and when I boiled it down a day or two or three later. This year I decided to upgrade my collection system: instead of using rinsed out milk jugs to collect the sap, I invested in some plastic taps, tubing to fit those taps, and drilled holes in the lids of six buckets to fit the tubing.
This upgraded system will hopefully keep the trips to the woods during the mushy muddy Spring thaw to a minimum, as I won't have to run out there twice a day on good weather days to empty my full jugs, (or at all on days where the sap doesn't run as hard). Plus, with the buckets pretty much sealed (as the holes in the lids are just barely big enough to run the tubing through), there should be a lot fewer bugs to have to strain out of the sap before boiling. When the bucket is full, I can swap it out for an empty one, sticking a hole-less lid on the filled bucket before hauling it back to the house. Or, I can even leave the full buckets out in the woods for a day or two if I can't drive the tractor or four-wheeler
Last weekend, I tapped six trees, none of which had been tapped last year or the year before (I like to give my trees a rest since I'm doing syrup on such a small scale). So far, one tree has run pretty well, the others so-so. Those six trees gave me roughly 13 gallons of sap by Thursday afternoon. Then the weather took an unpredicted dive, becoming windy with snow and daytime highs only in the low to mid 30's. The kind of weather that sap doesn't run well in. *sigh*
So, Friday after work, I began boiling my first run of sap. I finished it off on Saturday, getting some beautiful golden syrup with fantastic flavor. I think it might even be Grade A. The pictures below were taken right after ladling it into jars, so it's still boiling hot and cloudy looking. It cleared as it cooled to room temperature.
For my first run of 13 gallons, I yielded 2 1/2 pints, plus about another 3/4 cup that went into a dish in the fridge to be used for ice cream topping. Just need to pick up some vanilla ice cream next time I'm in town. ;0)