When we first started homeschooling, we did a lot of unit studies. Often, our studies revolved around a book I was reading aloud to the kids.
One of our fondest memories of homeschooling revolves around Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We had recently read about the Ingalls’ family sugaring time and a few days later, while enjoying pancakes with real maple syrup, Geneva inquired, “How do you make maple syrup again, Mom?”
I have long been intrigued with the notion of tapping trees to make syrup. I quickly took her question to heart and we launched into an integrated unit on maple sugaring.
Read more of our early experiences here, Sugaring Time: Making Our Own Maple Syrup
While Oregon does not typically come to mind when one thinks of maple sugar, I can attest that we do in fact have maple trees. Come along with me as I share the science of sugaring.
In preparation for this post, I received a maple sugaring starter kit for free and was compensated for my time in writing it. All the opinions below are mine and I was not required to write a positive review.
The Science of Sugaring
Products derived from Sugar Maple trees are common in house holds throughout the country, particularly the maple syrup and sugar industry in the Northeast. The earliest written accounts of maple sugaring were made in the early 1600s by European explorers who observed American Indians gathering maple sap.
I love real maple syrup. Growing up, even when times were tight, my dad always insisted we had real maple syrup. When I was in middle school, my dad became intrigued with the notion of tapping trees to make syrup. “Couldn’t you also tap other trees?” he would ask. “We have a lot of Big Leaf Maple? Can you make Alder syrup? What would it taste like? What about Willow and Oak? Certainly their sap would be sweet as well.”
The next thing I knew, my dad had ordered a spiles kit and we were hiking into Oregon’s coast range to tap trees. After numerous attempts and modifications to his collecting devices, we were successful.
We managed to collect enough sap from several trees to process into syrup – essentially the sap is filtered and the excess water is boiled from the sap. You would be surprised just how much maple sap is required to make just one quart of syrup … 10 gallons (though this varies by species)!
Our research revealed the most commonly tapped maple trees are Sugar, Black, Red, and Silver Maples. My father’s inquiry experiments proved that while other trees can be tapped to collect sap, including Birch, Walnut, and other maple species like Big Leaf and Boxelder; tapping a Sugar or Black Maple yields the best results.
Tap My Trees
Today, Sugar Maple stands and roadside trees provide private landowners with an annual cash crop as well as a rewarding hobby. I am excited to discover and share with you the #1 supplier of maple sugaring supplies for the hobbyist, Tap My Trees. They are the leading site for home based maple sugaring – the process of sap collection and making maple syrup.
Collecting maple sap is a green, environmentally sustainable process that can be enjoyed by anyone with a healthy, mature maple tree. The Tap My Trees website provides you with step-by-step instructions on how to tap your maple trees and turn that sap into maple syrup.
The process is actually quite simple. It does, however, take some time and a willingness to get outdoors and experience this miracle of nature – Charlotte Mason would be so proud!
The Tap My Trees kit is a wonderful way to jump into the sugaring hobby. Here’s a peak of what is included in the kit:
- Maple Sugaring Lesson Plan: Lesson plan for the maple sugaring process. Can be adapted for third grade through high school.
- Maple Sugaring at Home book: This guide provides step-by-step instructions (complete with pictures) to tap maple trees. Includes information on how to identify maple trees, how to tap trees, collection and storage of sap, uses for maple sap including how to make maple syrup, and frequently asked questions.
- 1 Aluminum Bucket: 2 gallon aluminum bucket is used to collect the sap as it drips from the spile.
- 1 Metal Lid: Lids prevent rain, snow, and foreign material from entering the bucket.
- 1 Spile with Hook: Stainless steel spile (tap) is inserted into drilled hole to transfer sap into the bucket. Hook is used to hold the bucket.
- 1 Drill Bit: 7/16 drill bit with 3/8 shank used to drill tap hole into your maple tree.
- Cheesecloth: Used to filter any solids (such as pieces of bark) when transferring sap from the collection bucket to a storage container.
- Filter: 24″ X 30″ filter sheet to filter sediment from finished syrup. Durapure grade filter.
- 1 Bottle with Lid: Empty 12 oz. maple syrup bottle used to store finished syrup.
- Thermometer: Candy thermometer for making maple syrup. Instrument Range: 100 to 400°F / 40 to 200°C. Stainless steel housing with mounting clip