On the 11th the Prairie Central Community High School Ag classes came out to learn about the syrup season from Will. Will does a great program with these classes every year thanks to the coordination with their teacher, Darren Ropp (thanks Darren!). The kids helped tap the 151 trees on the 11th and then Will, Marty and I finished tapping the other half of them over the weekend. The total trees tapped are around 322. (We ended up with some extra buckets so we'll have to do a recount at the end of the season.)
We always have questions about the tapping of the trees and the most popular one is...does it hurt the tree? So, here is what we think. It is kind of like giving blood. You go in, get jabbed in the arm and it hurts for a minute. You give some blood, then go home and the blood helps someone else. The trees give us their supply of sap (blood, in a way) that helps us make a living so we can continue to live here and take care of the farm and the woods. And, take care of the trees. It is a nice support of each other. I like to (yes, I'm one of those) hug the trees and tell them thank you for their support and participation in making the farm a great place to live. I know! Sounds corny! Or maybe I should say sappy.
After tapping the trees, we began putting out big 55 gallon blue barrels and measuring 100' between them. Last year the mud bogged us down and we were having to carry 5 gallon buckets of sap through the mud to the syrup house from over 600' away...did I say thru the mud? The mud was ankle deep in some places. So, this year we got brightened up and decided to put out these barrels. We got a new hose to syphon from barrel to barrel with a little generator and a pump. That will help tremendously to cut down the back breaking (and ankle breaking) work of hauling the sap across the woods.
We dump all the sap into a huge stainless steel tank that holds 400 gallons. The kids came out again today and collected sap, just about filling the tank. Then they'll come back again after we begin to boil it down into syrup and see that part of the process. We had to order a piece for the evaporator so won't be able to begin boiling until it arrives, hopefully this weekend.
We'd like to get a bigger one. Maybe next season, they are kind of expensive so we are saving up.
The tap is "tapped" into a hole drilled just barely 1" into the tree.The days are getting longer, not just the daylight but also our work days. We typically work 14 hour days and 7 days a week during syrup season. But, the time enjoying the woods with spring coming, and the time working together as a team and family, is definitely worth it. Last year we were able to make and sell almost 50 gallons of syrup. This year we hope to be able to double that. It all depends on the weather tho, as does all farming. We need days in the upper 30's at least and night below freezing for the best syrup season. The freezing causes the sap to go back down the tree into the ground, the warm weather up into the tree during the day. Our 2010 season was only three weeks long. We are hoping for double that also!
I'll work on getting some more pictures so you can see the process as it happens.