The Sappening, Part I: Drill, Baby, Drill

Despite the fact that it looks fairly glacial around these parts, signs of the impending thaw can be seen everywhere. Actual bare ground is visible at the edges of roads, where the plow scraped wide and the sun-warmed asphalt shares the love with a slightly broader margin every day. Even a winter as mighty as this one can’t fight the light; it’s reaching spots that haven’t felt it since around Columbus Day. The upside to these arctic days we’ve been saddled with has been the cleanest, clearest air on the planet: cloudless, endless azure framing a sun that gets higher and warmer every day.

Having said that, though, Friday was fucking freezing. It topped out at about 15˚ behind Danny’s when we trudged out there—through knee-deep snow with a thick layer of frozen crust on top for maximum difficulty—to tap his biggest sugar maples. This coming week we’ve got highs above freezing and lows below, which is the climate in which sap gets its flow on.


The five-gallon buckets at the foot of each tree should fill up by the end of each warm—sorry, make that “warm”—day, meaning that the two 30-gallon trash barrels should be full in a couple of days. That means it’s time to boil. Then the real fun begins. If you’re good, I’ll wear my Harris tweed Carhartt pants for that part as well.



One of the most revealing aspects of tapping in the cold is that holes drilled in south-facing sides of the trees start dripping right away, while holes in the shade do not. The trees are as horny for the sun as we are. Meantime, you can read other, more detailed posts about my maple exploits here and here, and the article I wrote about the very same activity here.


Stay tuned.




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  1. March 9

    A friend of mine told me that she makes a point to cook a pot of rice in the sap that comes out of trees. Have you tried that? Doesn’t that sound interesting?

    • Peter
      March 9

      It does. Sap is an amazing cooking liquid.

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