Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
My great grandfather pioneered the tubing method for tapping trees. Being out in the bush has always been a part of Algonquin culture and has been in the other side of my mother's family since they crossed the Atlantic.
Unfortunately the tradition stopped with my great grandfather, I was wondering if anyone has any experience or expertise in keeping the woods as productive and healthy as possible? Does anyone know where I can find reading material on this?
I love maple syrup, I was raised with gallons of my great grandpa's syrup in the cupboards at all times. We couldn't always pay the bills, but we had maple butter on toast! ;-) I have been putting together plans to propose a farmstead/homestead(not sure of the language) on my father in laws property, right now it's a hobby farm. I thought it would be great if I could work a sugar shack as well.
The sugarbush needs to be thinned out by cutting out everything except hard maples, then some of those sugar maples (Acer saccharum) as well so that the trees that remain can grow strong and develop a good crown.
Jeffrey, here's a link that might help.
Nothing can compare to real maple syrup that you make yourself. My grandparents bought a 100 acre piece of land in the 70's, not primarily for a sugar bush, but there are many maple trees on the property. As kids we helped them collect and boil sap every spring. Good memories, and like you, we always had syrup. Now my kids help us. We don't use tubing, just pails on the tree, and we only make enough for ourselves plus a few litres to give away. Not sure how we'll do this year with the crazy warm weather.
How big were you planning on making it? You could give tours and do other special events to generate some income. There are many farms here in Ontario that offer this kind of thing. Some have petting farms or trails to walk. There is one that offers the whole experience, families can gather sap, then bring it back to the sugar shack where it is boiled, then bottled for them to take home. I have been trying to find that website, but I can't remember where it was.
Good luck with the planning!
I had my first experience with sugaring this last spring, when we moved to upstate NY. I have to say it was simpler than I imagined. I ordered pails, spiles, and covers from leader evaporator. This year I'm going to add some more taps and purchase a felt filter.
You don't need a lot of equipment if you're just making syrup for yourself and your family - a couple of gallons will do you for the year, and with that little you don't need to spend >$1000 for an evaporator. I did borrow a big, big boiling pan from a friend (2ft x 4 ft) and boiled over an outdoor wood fire on blocks (much quicker than my first technique with a kettle on a tripod). You can check craigslist for a large boiling pan. I finished the syrup indoors with a sugaring thermometer. After reaching the magic 7.1 above boiling, I filtered through a thick wool sock (a clean one) and into wine bottles I then capped or Mason jars (be sure to preheat your glassware so it doesn't crack). 60gal sap to 1.25gal syrup has lasted us all spring and summer and only now running low.
RE: the maintenance of the sugar bush, bill is right - the crown of the tree is a big factor in how much sap you'll produce.