Last weekend I got off my ass and measured out where the tap lines for this year’s maple operation would attach to all my trees. I decided on a single long line from the top of the yard to the bottom that stops at all the trees along the way. Even the one that’s probably dead. Practically dead. It’s still got holes I drilled in it from 3 seasons ago that never closed up. Lazy goddamn tree.
According to everything I’ve read, sap collection lines should slope at a minimum 4% grade. Everything I’ve read also says a minimum of nothing about how I should go about measuring this. Since it was a Sunday, I was unlikely to find a surveyor on the clock, and I certainly wasn’t about to re-learn trigonometry. So, I took a page out of the girl’s book (seriously, out of the back of a Hannah Montana coloring book) and cobbled a measuring device out of paper, tape, string, paper clips and a spare house key. Eat your heart out, MacGuyver.
I printed out a protractor I found online, stiffened it up by taping it to some card stock, hung a key by some of the wife’s very plentiful and woefully underused DMC cross stitching floss and taped some bent paper clips to the back so it would hang even on the line. The plan was to mark off the 4 degree hash mark so I’d know when the line I was hanging was at the correct pitch. As you can see, I incorrectly marked off the 15 degree hash, and then corrected that by incorrectly marking the 5 degree hash. Yup. If you’re going to do a job wrong, at least do it wrong in as many ways as you know how.
When I was all done, I’d marked the location for attaching sap lines to each tree with a stainless steel screw. Only problem was that by the time I finished at the tree closest to the house, that 4% slope meant I was going to be tapping at damn near eye level. Frell. So I went back and readjusted the lines to a 3% slope, which put the line terminating at about chest level at the last tree. That’s better. Sure it’ll work. If I were sap, I’d want to flow down that 3% slope.
This is where I left everything, since it was not yet the right weather for sap to be running. No need to tap yet. Patience, Grasshopper.
Yesterday, on Sunday, it was such a nice day that I decided to again get up off my ass and actually attach the sap lines to the trees, and set my collection barrel. And so I did. The collection barrel will hold 44 gallons when full. So roughly, every time it fills, that’s a gallon of potential syrup. Here you can see it encased in a snow insulator. It could get up to 40 degrees on some of the best sap collection days. Gotta keep that sap cold!
As I was running the collection lines, I noticed that everywhere I’d removed a screw during the previous week’s slope adjustment, sap was weeping from the holes. Well, if they’re ready, then so am I! I grabbed a 5/16 drill bit and got to tapping.
I improvised a way for the line to connect to the collection barrel by sticking a spare tap into a hole I drilled in the barrel lid. It also helps keep the line pulled taught.
I’m just giddy. Since Sara still won’t let me play with electricity, having fluids bow to my directional will is all I’ve got left. But that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.
I’ve already got about 8 gallons of sap collected. I might even be boiling by this weekend.