We then went outside and learned how to identify a sugar maple from the other trees in the sugarbush. Three important things to look at are the leaves, the opposing twigs, the buds, and the bark.
|She is showing the kids a sugar maple branch with opposing twigs|
Once we find the sugar maple tree we have to make sure it is big enough to tap. A tree that is 10 inches in diameter can have one tap, 18 inches can have two taps, and 25 inches can have three taps. A tree that is 10 inches in diameter is usually 40 years old, just to give an idea of how long it takes to have a "tappable" tree.
|What they use to measure the tree's diameter|
Next we learned how to drill a hole in the tree, insert a spout, and hang the bucket. (We practiced on a dead tree). But then we went to the trees that had already been tapped and got to watch the sap run and even let it drip on our finger so we could taste it. What does it taste like? Water! 96-97% of sap is water, the rest is sugar. We also learned that sap runs best when it freezes at night and warms up during the day--freeze up, run down; freeze up, run down...
|Everyone gets a chance to crank the drill in to "tap" the tree.|
|Hammering in the spout|
|Getting a taste of the running sap|
|One of the many, many buckets of sap|
In order to concentrate the sugar we have to boil the water off. We first saw how the Native Americans that lived in Michigan first must have done it, then went to the sugarhouse to watch how they do it today. Both places burned firewood for their heat. It was so cold yesterday that it was nice to be by the fire!
As we entered the sugarhouse we saw/looked in the big storage vats for sap.
It was hard to see in the sugarhouse because of all the steam leaving the sap. The sugarhouse worker showed us the various stages of syrup as it has been heated, and we could see the color changes that occurred. He said that they can't rely on color change alone and use a hydrometer to measure the density of the syrup. If the hydrometer floats than the syrup is ready to be poured out of the heating vat.
|Kind of hard to see the various sections in the heating vat for the various stages of syrup because of the steam.|
|Pouring the "almost done" syrup in a container with the hydrometer to see if it floats.|
|An example of the filter is on top of the 40 gallon barrel (the side of the metal container is cut away to see the white filter)|
|Anna in front of the sugarhouse|