In late winter, 2011, we attended a small festival called Maple Syrup Time at a little park in Lake County in northwest Indiana. We were living in Crown Point at the time and emerging from a long winter in our tiny apartment. It was a pleasant, sunny day. We were just looking for a fun afternoon, not a new hobby, but that is exactly what we found. It turns out, tapping trees and making maple syrup is a pretty simple task!
The process starts with maple trees. Lucky for us, we have four large silver maple trees in our front yard at Novel Farm. A tree needs to be at least 10 inches in diameter before tapping. If the tree is over 18 inches in diameter, it can hold 2 taps, and a tree measuring about 28 inches or larger can manage 3 taps. Try spacing out your taps evenly. In our experience, taps on the south side of the tree collect the most syrup.
The next thing you need is cooperative weather. The temperature needs to reach about 40℉ during the day, and drop below 32℉ at night. Where we are in Indiana, this typically occurs in February and early March. However, the past few years have been as stubborn as an old mule. Regardless, November and December are good times to start collecting gallon milk jugs, if that is what you are going to use to collect your sap. You can buy a bit fancier supplies, but we are frugal in our maple syrup endeavors and honestly don’t notice much of a difference.
When you are prepared and the weather is right, use a 7/16” drill bit and drill at least 1.5” into the tree at a slight upward angle. Then lightly tap a ½” steel pipe nipple (you can buy these from any hardware store), into the tree with a hammer. If you are worried about the pipe nipple being too large for the 7/16” hole, I can assure you it works. The smaller hole guarantees a tight fit for the pipe nipple. Sap can leak out below the pipe nipple if the fit is not tight enough. If you are still worried, just widen the hole a bit at the entry point. Continue reading