Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Maple Syrup Day

"Getting the Tools Ready for Tapping a Tree"
photograph copyright 2009 MaryAnn Cleary

"Drilling a Hole for Tapping"
photograph copyright 2009 MaryAnn Cleary

This afternoon the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) at Wild River State Park in Minnesota gave a tutorial and some hands-on experience for tapping maple trees. This will continue each weekend during the month of March. This is my first time to actually learn about this and see how it is done.

During March different teams will tap trees and gather syrup. It will be stored and then at the end of the month, there will be a cooking day to boil down the sap, removing the excess water and increasing the maple sugar content. This is done outside with a wood fire and a long trough for the liquid. March 29th starts the cook-off day.

Today the "A" team consistent of several members and ten buckets, drilled, sterilized and tapped ten tree locations to gather their sap. Trees that have at least a 10" diameter trunk are chosen for the ones to share their nectar. In the Native American tradition, tobacco is left prior to tapping as an offering to Mother Earth. Anything that is taken should have an offering of thanks. The trees had been marked with blue ribbons to avoid any confusion for the folks selecting a tree. Some of the trees were quite large in diameter so they will actually have two taps on them. During the month, folks will come back to check the buckets and empty them. The collected sap is taken back to the storage area to be cooked down later.

On a good day, the sap could drip as fast as 300 drops/minute. Today the drops were slow in coming and some just weren't coming at all. As the days warm up and the nights remain cool, that will definitely change. Spring is just around the corner. Thank goodness. It has been a long and cold winter.

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