Blue bags and silver buckets will be hung from maple trees from here to Vermont in a week or so. Where I grew up sugaring is a serious business to some folks and a serious hobby for many families. I didn’t pay too much attention to the process, just the product, as a little kid. About 9 years ago a grove of maple trees reminded me of a spring family fun activity and I began experimenting.
This is a hobby which requires no fancy gear, although there is plenty for sale. Take my word for it, your basement and garage probably have all the equipment you’ll need to make your first pint of maple syrup. I like to MacGyver solutions, and as you can see from the photo my first effort was hardly efficient, but the syrup was spectacular. With a grove of trees available, I grew my little operation into a 20 quart production operation complete with old gear I acquired from a sugar shack outside of Antigo. All of that gear is now in the hands of a friend in Columbus who has taken the hobby to new heights.
Groves aren’t required for back yard sugaring. One big fat maple tree is enough. The first spring after I moved into Crestwood I tapped a few trees behind my house and a new spring event was born. Neighbors drawn by the buckets, the fire, and the sweet smell of boiling sap soon were grilling hot dogs, toting buckets of sap, and tending a hot fire in the backyard. Six years later two of my neighbors have their own spring sugaring operations making a variety of smokey and non-smokey brands which we trade and use in cooking, pancakes, and over ice cream.
The weather needs to cooperate before the trees get busy. The first string of cold nights and warm days in March will start the flow. The forecast is cold for the next week, I’m not seeing the warm days we need, so expect this to be a shorter season from mid March to early April.
There are plenty of DIY videos on YouTube, but keep in mind, elaborate evaporation systems are not required. Long time sugar operations in WI have moved to tubes and plastic taps. It’s easy to get inexpensive taps and buckets by checking on-line.
I hope to tap a few trees next weekend. Depending on the flow, we could be evaporating by the next weekend. Let me know if you’d like some non-professional help to start your own Sticky Fingers Maple Syrup Company.