poetry and prose about place

maple syrup time

with 16 comments

Well, the time has finally arrived.  The nights are cold and the days this week are predicted to be sunny and warm.  In our house the combination of cold days and warm nights means the sap is moving in our maple trees.

We tap Red Maple (Acer rubrum L.), although Sugar-maple (Acer saccharum Marsh) is preferred by commercial syrup producers.  Last year we tapped 12 trees, about at the edge of our low-tech capability.  This year we are tapping 10 trees.

We usually use the ‘old-fashioned’ spile and aluminum bucket method.  This year, for the first time, my husband is trying a plastic spile and pipe system for 5 of our taps.  It seems a little easier since the sap drips directly into a plastic reservoir and this eliminates one step in the endless pouring process.

For those of you unfamiliar with tapping trees for sap, the basic idea is to collect the sap and boil it down to make maple syrup.  We select a tree, bore a hole, insert a spile and hang a bucket on the spile hook.  The spile is a cleverly designed spigot which channels the sap from inside the tree into the bucket.  The bucket is fitted with a cover to keep out rainwater or snow and reduce insect access.

So far this year, we have collected 25 liters of sap.  This will boil down at about 40 to 1 to make a little more than 500 ml of syrup (about 2 cups).  Last year, from a season total of 329 liters of sap, we made about 40 pint jars of syrup.  If you try to calculate that at 40 to 1, it will never come out correctly since we don’t boil all of the sap to the same concentration and we drink some of the sap as a sweet drink.

Collecting maple sap is so much fun.  It is good exercise and a great way to get your dose of warm spring sunshine.  And, we have enough maple syrup to last for the year.

I’ll be keeping you up to date on our maple syrup adventures this year.  Right now, the pot full of sap is boiling on the deck.



sugar song


cold nights

warm days

cold nights


sap plucks stainless steel

different rhythm, every tap

quick and dead slow

in sync

with the downy woodpecker

or the bird with the round warble in its throat



©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

March 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

16 Responses

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  1. Having never made maple syrup before, I learned a lot from this- thanks Jane!


    Watching Seasons

    March 25, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    • Hi. Making the syrup is lots of fun and it is very satisfying to know that we made those bottles of syrup sitting on the kitchen counter. Jane


      jane tims

      March 26, 2012 at 7:13 am

  2. You’re the first person I’ve “known” who taps her own maple trees – it sounds really marvelous that you have a pot boiling away on your deck.
    I’ve never tasted the sweet sap before its boiled down. Can I invite myself over to taste some…?



    March 25, 2012 at 12:17 am

    • Hi Rosie. Yes, you can come visit if you are ever up this way and I’ll feed you pancakes with maple syrup. The sap is a good drink, just slightly sweet and with the flavour of maple syrup. It’s not very hard to do maple syrup… we work with very simple tools since we only tap a few trees. You just have to keep your eye on the sap all the time so it won’t burn! Jane


      jane tims

      March 26, 2012 at 7:05 am

  3. I love everything about this post!


    Robby Robin's Journey

    March 20, 2012 at 12:10 am

  4. Mom went to school in Vermont…and when GrandDad came to visit he always brought with him a box of maple sugar candies shaped in little maple leaf shapes. So this post brings back memories of childhood and those who are no longer with us… and a time that is no longer with us either.


    Merrill Ann Gonzales

    March 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    • Hi. When I lived in Alberta, Dad would bring home a block of maple sugar, and I don’t think I ever tasted anything so good. Jane


      jane tims

      March 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

  5. This makes me recall such happy springs of childhood, the house full of humidity anf fragrant maple. We can’t tap trees here on our property as there aren’t enough maples. We’ve planted some but they are too small to tap…yet. Thanks for sharing this post. I can smell the sap boling from here.


    Carol Steel

    March 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    • Hi. One of the maples we tap was only three centimeters in diameter when we built our house… now I can’t get my arms around it. Jane


      jane tims

      March 20, 2012 at 7:08 am

  6. This post brings back happy memories of my husband’s aunt and uncle making maple syrup at their home in Massachusetts. Mostly memories of the smell of the wood fire boiling the sap! 🙂 Love your drawing and sweet poem…


    Barbara Rodgers

    March 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    • Hi. One of the things I love about making the syrup is the sweet smell of steam every time I lift the top of the pot. Jane


      jane tims

      March 20, 2012 at 7:06 am

  7. How wonderful! Ellen


    Ellen Grace Olinger

    March 19, 2012 at 10:27 am

  8. Beautifully done, Jane, all round.



    March 19, 2012 at 8:27 am

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