Saturday, February 18, 2012
I went over to my friend's house today, it's past time to be tapping the trees in this weird season, and we decided that today's the day. Of course, today's about the only cold day we've had all month, but at least the spiles are in place now.
Dar met me in the garage and explained the process to me.
First we'd be drilling holes at an upwards angle, about 1.5 inches or so into the tree with a 5/8 drill bit. Then we use a special, high tech tool (a twig pulled off the nearby brush) to clear the wood shavings and check the depth of the hole. Then we push the narrow end of the spile into the hole and gently tap it into place with a mallet until it's firmly seated. The hook that hangs off the spile has to support the sap bucket. If you can wiggle the spile with your fingers, it's likely going to fall out of the tree and spill your precious sap all over the ground.
When we get to the tree the next obvious question is where to put the holes. As far as height goes, it needs to be high enough to suspend the bucket below it, and low enough that it will be easy to lift down the buckets, even when they're heavy with sap. Pictured at the right is a plugged hole from last season. Dar fills her holes in with pieces of wine corks to help the tree heal quickly. Any holes recent enough to be visible like that should be avoided by at least 5 inches.
This is the first spile! Right now it's only finger snug, it still needs to be tapped into place. I took pictures once the bucket was hanging, but it was so bright out I couldn't tell the picture was blurry on my camera screen. Use your imagination.
Dar doesn't use lids on her buckets and I decided not to either. Lids help to keep debris and rain water out of the sap. Rainwater just dilutes the sap which means you need to cook it down further, and bugs and bark are easy to strain out with coffee filters before you start to boil the sap.
It takes a little extra effort, but apparently is not as cumbersome as trying to work around a lid. I'll go with the voice of experience on this one.
In the first picture you can see the three buckets on the front side of the tree, and there is a fourth around the back side. Having the spiles all in one tree will make it easier for me as a beginner, because the sap should all be of a similar consistency on any given day. Different trees have different sap characteristics, and then I'd have to decide whether to separate them and make two separate batches or blend them all together.
On a warmer day the sap would start pouring down the spile almost immediately, but today it was too cold, so you'll have to wait for shots of sap in the pail.
Eagerly waiting for the mercury to climb.