I’m just going to be real honest here. I have never ever considered maple sugaring. Especially not maple sugaring in our front yard.
I would say about 80% of the science experiments we do around here end with a less than enthusiastic grand finale. We gather up all the materials and get all excited about building a battery or making the lid pop off something or watching seeds grow. I’m not sure if we’re just science illiterate or what, but almost like clockwork, the project will get underway and the battery completely fails, the lid merely falls (no popping or exploding like the book promised) and the seeds don’t sprout.
I was excited to receive a sap-tapping kit from Tap My Trees and try out collecting our own sap from our Sugar Maple trees, but deep in my science-experiment-doubting heart, I pictured us collecting nothing but melted snow and a few early bugs. So you might understand then, when we drilled a hole into our tree and immediately started to see the clear beautiful sap, I might have felt a little tear slip out.
It could have been sap, but it also could have been a grateful tear that we had just struck some gold.
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Not only did the sap start to flow right away, it started to really flow. After just a few days, our sap bucket was full!
We had never even thought about tapping our own trees before, so this was a very new experiment. We’ve never lived in a state where tapping is common, so…yay for Minnesota! We started to notice lots of neighbors with buckets around their trees too.
A few months ago, I shared about identifying your Maple trees before the leaves fall off. Tapping your trees is a great subject for a nature study, science study, or a huge unit study covering both of these plus history, art, literature and more! I was so inspired by this project I even made a Pinterest board to save the ideas I came across.
How to Collect Maple Sugar in your Front Yard
This was very simple actually. I received the Starter Kit for Teachers, so everything I needed was in the kit. (Convenience, my favorite!) There was even a glass bottle to store our syrup and great information on lots of unit study ideas.
- We used the drill bit (provided in the kit) and drilled about 2 inches into the tree. Sidenote: We wondered if tapping hurt the trees. After researching, we found that there is more than enough sap to provide health to the tree. Tapping the sap is sort of like us giving blood. Our bodies just make more to make up for the loss of extra blood.
- Next, we cleaned out the hole with a stick. This was a great job for Vera. We found that the sap started flowing right away as soon as we made the hole. Instant gratification!
- Next the kids gently tapped the spile into the hole in the tree and hung the bucket from the spile. We made sure the lid to our bucket was on too. The squirrels in our neighborhood are crazy!
- Lastly, we waited. It just took a few days for our bucket to fill up. That’s two gallons of sap! Now, before you get too excited about the amount, we learned that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, so two gallons would be about enough to cover one waffle. 😉
How to Make Maple Syrup at Home
There is an art to boiling the syrup. We did two boils with our sap and the first one made more like maple taffy. It was ok though, it was still thoroughly enjoyed. Here’s the details on boiling your sap to make syrup.
- As you pour your sap into storage containers, use the cheesecloth (provided in the kit) to filter off any bugs or bark–and yes, there was bugs and bark. Store your sap in food-safe containers for no more than a week.
- When you’re ready to boil, make sure you’re going to have a good chunk of time at home without having to leave. Boiling takes a while and needs constant supervision.
- Use the thermometer from the kit and start boiling your sap. It takes a while for all the water to boil off, leaving just the maple sugar. It’s sort of like making candy, which can be finicky. You have to let it get to a certain temperature, which will vary depending on your elevation. A rule of thumb that we read a lot was letting the syrup boil to 7 degrees above the boiling temp at your elevation, usually around 218 degrees. You’ll see it change color right at the end of the boiling.
- Remove from the heat and get ready to filter the hot syrup again. This removes any impurities from your syrup and assures that it’s crystal clear and beautiful. Use the filter provided in the kit to filter the hot syrup as you pour into a glass container.
That’s it! Now it’s time to enjoy!
This was such a fabulous project. My kids have already asked if we’re doing it again next winter–um, yes!! I’m planning on ordering more spiles and buckets for next year too for our other Maple trees. I’m also planning on doing that right now, so when it rolls around to sugaring time again next year, I’m prepared.
Also, the free shipping offered on Tap My Trees is a great incentive to stock up on supplies for next year. I hope you’ll try this too on your Maple trees. It was so much fun! And now I feel a little more like Ma Ingalls and that’s always a good thing 😉