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Country Discussion Topics
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A few questions for you sugerers
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SteveB    Posted 02-12-2004 at 09:06:14       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Growing up in Michigan I used to make a little maple syrup. I had never seen it done before so I was on my own to figure out the process. Never had much trouble getting sap out of the trees - it was not uncommon to get 5 gallons per tap per day.

I am now in NE IL and tried tapping a half dozen trees a couple years ago and only got about 12 gallons of sap. Most trees yielded nothing. Was going to try again this year and figured I better ask the experts here if I'm doing something wrong. This is my process:

Drill 5/8" hole at 30 degree angle up about 2 inches in. Insert 1 salt tablet and plastic tap as far as it would go. Hang bucket and cover with plastic. Is the salt tablet necessary? Would I be better with 2 smaller taps or 1 larger tap?

For the poster below that was looking for ideas for cooking down, I have a large cast iron kettle about 30" across at the top that I hang from a tripod and cook with wood. I just keep adding sap to the kettle till I run out of sap and cook till it tastes right. I have a hydrometer but don't know what specific gravity to cook to. Any suggestions?

Will probably be setting taps this weekend as the 10 day forecast is for highs in the 30-40 range and lows in the 20s.

Salmoneye    Posted 02-12-2004 at 09:58:32       [Reply]  [No Email]
I have never heard of anyone using a salt tablet in the hole...I have seen some people use a can of air to get the shavings out of the hole...I have seen one strange sucker use a super-soaker with a 50-1 water to bleach mix to clean the hole and 'sterilize' it before inserting the tap (spout, spiggot, spile)...I use nothing in the hole...You should not be using a 5/8ths bit either...The hole for older style metal and plastic taps should be 9/16ths...The newer 'tree saver' plastic taps are 5/16ths and the experimental stainless taps available almost nowhere yet are 3/16ths...

I have never seen anyone tip their spouts...Most people go to extraordinary lengths to keep them level, even so far as to attach levels to their tapping equipment...

On older trees with thick bark you need to get the rough bark off the outside before you tap...Oldtimers used a hatchet or the claws on a hammer to gouge (gently) down to the 'orange' pith underneath the rough outside bark before starting with the bit & brace (old hand drill)...2 inches is about as deeply as you want to drill...If you start on the outside of the really thick bark and drill 2 inches you will never get to the cambium layer where the sap runs...

Kettle Syrup is the best there is...At least to those of us that eat syrup for 'flavour' and not for show...'Fancy' looks good on a Martha Stewart table, and is sweet as heck, but has no 'maple' taste at all...

If you really want the answers to all your questions (and the 7 million that you didn't ask), then see the link below...That is the 'bible' for people that did not grow up sapping...It is dang handy at times to those of us that did...

Les    Posted 02-12-2004 at 11:23:31       [Reply]  [No Email]
Gotta disagree with ya just a little bit, Salmoneye. Sap don't run just in the cambium layer. There's a reason it's called "sapwood".
In fact, you'd have to show me that the cambium is where the sap runs at all. You sure wouldn't need a 2" deep hole if all you were interested in was the cambium.

Ayuh...    Posted 02-12-2004 at 11:44:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
Got my cambium and my xylem mixed up...

Nice catch...

Salmoneye, The Not Always Right

SteveB    Posted 02-12-2004 at 10:59:14       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thanks Salmoneye. There are 2 reasons I use the salt. Salt has a tendency to draw water and irritate a wound so I figured it may result in increased sap flows. It also had the potential to slow bacterial growth would seal the wound prematurely.

The 5/8" hole is because my taps are pieces of 1/2" garden hose which has an O.D. of 5/8". I put them on the angle because I thought the sap would "wick" to the tap, both inside and outside surfaces, and flow into the bucket instead of bleeding down the side of the tree. I have never seen a comercial tap. How far into the tree do they extend?

Salmoneye    Posted 02-12-2004 at 11:12:13       [Reply]  [No Email]
Below is a link to about all the spouts you will encounter today...

The 9/16ths spouts are tapped in about 1/2 inch...Basically enough to plug the hole tightly without blocking the cambium layer or splitting the tree...Both are easy to do if you are not careful and I expect what you succeeded in doing was closing off the sap layer either by burning it with the salt or with the hose itself...

SteveB    Posted 02-12-2004 at 11:49:01       [Reply]  [No Email]
As I recall the hose did fit tighter than normal. I drilled the holes with a cordless drill and chisel type bit, not the brace and bit I had used in the past. I ordered a few of the "Phlats" 5/16 taps for buckets. Will these support a 5 gallon bucket? I suspect they won't so I will still be driving a nail in to hold the bucket.

Salmoneye    Posted 02-12-2004 at 12:46:34       [Reply]  [No Email]
If the spout is in solidly (just to the point of tight enough without splitting the tree) then they will easily hold a 2 1/2 gallon bucket...I have never used a 5 gallon, so I do not know...

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