Maple Syrup Season – 2019

It’s been a hard Winter, but that could not keep the Maple Trees from providing one of the best years of sap that I have seen. Maybe it was the amount of snow we got hit with this year, but whatever the reason we are thankful. The Maple Syrup turned out GREAT!

Collecting The Maple Tree Sap

With the steep hills we decided to take advantage of gravity and used more tube-lines this year on our taps, bring multiple lines down to our buckets. The tube-lines worked great and even made it safer, eliminating the occasional slip or fall when collecting the Sap on those hillsides. It also made it easier to haul the Sap to the evaporator since we could drive the 4-wheeler right to the buckets.

How Much Will A Tree Produce

Each Maple Tree on average will produce between 9 and 13 gallons of sap. However, the sugar concentrate will vary depending on the Maple Tree Type. Our sugar percentages ranged from 2.2% to 3.2%. Our estimate for sap to syrup ratio is 57 to 1 with a sugar concentrate of 1.5%, 40 to 1 with a sugar concentrate of 2.5%, and 25 to 1 for a sugar concentrate of 3.5%. We do use a Sap Hydrometer for this and figure we are using 30 to 35 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup.

Boiling Stages

Our evaporator setup is far from being professional, but it works great for those of us who are only making a few gallons of Maple Syrup for family and friends. In our system we boil in three stages, making it easier to control and produce that great tasting Maple Syrup. The first stage is the evaporator, here we estimate the number of gallons of Sap we are boiling and boil down to a ratio of approximately 30 to 1 (typically it takes ~40 gallons to make one gallon of syrup). We start with 150 gallons of sap and will boil that down to ~5 gallons. We will then take this 5 gallons and put that into a Turkey Cooker, which is our second stage of boiling. Here we will boil that down unit it starts to foam over. At this stage the syrup is close and we move this into the kitchen for boiling a few more minutes and then filtering and storing into Mason Jars. Even though we have a Syrup Hydrometer we do not use it, as it’s easier in our setup to watch the temperature and for the foaming.


Maple Syrup

How do we know when the Maple Syrup has turned to the right concentrate? Well, we do not use the Hydrometer, as this takes time and when the syrup is at the right temperature you need to remove the heat right away or it will crystallize, giving you a lot of Maple Sugar. So we use a good cooking (Candy) thermometer, which has the jelly mark on it (shown in the video) and complete foaming over the top, also shown in the video. The temperature we are looking for is 219 (Jelly mark is at 220) and when it foams over the top remove it from the heat source.

The simplest way I know for knowing when the Maple Syrup is done is to trial a small batch first. Using a Candy Thermometer let the temperature reach 219 F. and then wait for the top to completely foam over. As soon as it foams over remove it from its heat source. Now you know what to watch for and what to expect and can move on to much larger batches with confidants.

Tapping Maple Trees

Tapping Maple Trees can start as early as mid-February and continue through early April depending on the weather. To tap a Maple Tree drill a hole slightly larger than your tap diameter, 2 – 4 feet above the ground. The hole should be drilled at a slight upward angle to a depth of about 3 inches and above a major root system going into the ground. Use a hammer to lightly tap the spike into the tree (two inches is good).

How To Get Started In Making Maple Syrup- 2018 Best Taste

How To Start Making Maple Syrup

If you’re interested in making your own Maple Syrup you may want to start out small and learn everything you can the first year with minimal cost. I recommend setting your goal at 1 to 2 gallons of syrup, which will require ~80 gallons of sap (40 -1 ratio). What will you need; taps, buckets, evaporator/pans, fire/stove and a planned process, all which we will describe in this article.

Tapping The Trees

The first thing we need to do is tap and collect the sap, so how do we do that. Start by purchasing a few taps (24), a few buckets/pals (10), and a few feet of tubing. Next drill and tap your trees using a battery drill and small hammer. For our first year we gather 100 gallons of sap (10 trees tapped) then pulled our taps. Again we were in the learning stage and set our goal to 1 – 2 gallons of the final product “Maple Syrup”.

Sap Collecting

We started by tapping ten trees, putting in two or three taps per tree. Smaller trees use only one tap and very large trees can have up to 4 taps. We then used our Vinyl Tubing and Tee Connections and fed the tubing into our buckets (drilled hole in lid). In the first week we had plenty of sap to start boiling. You will want to filter your sap before boiling to remove wood, bugs, etc.. and filter the final syrup to remove the sugar sands.

Boiling Down The Sap

We collected 100 gallons of Sap and boiled off 95% of the water or down to 5 gallons, which gave us a very high concentration of Maple Sugar Sap. The first major boil-off was with our homemade fire pit and evaporator, using dead elm for firewood. The next step was to take the 5 gallons of Sap up to the house and boil that down to 3.5 gallons in a Turkey Cooker. Next we divided those 3.5 gallons into 3 pans to finished our boiling on the stove where we could control the heat and boil to perfection (Maple Syrup).

Fire Pit & Evaporator Boiling

Here you will need to design your own stove and evaporator. We use bricks for the stove and stainless steel pans for the evaporating. In our design we used two pans and six concrete blocks per side (recommend 9 blocks per side and 3 pans). The stainless steel pans are 6” deep and 20” long.

Materials:

Cement Blocks @ $1.05/ea
Stainless Steel Pans @ $30/ea
Turkey Cooker @ $108.99
Tree Taps “Fleet Farm CDL Maxflow 5/16” clear smart spouts (12 PK)” @ $4.29
Tee Connections “Fleet Farm CDL Maxflow 5/16” Tees (12 PK)” @ $5.29
Vinyl Tubing (10 trees 40 ft) @ $0.32/ft.
Ten Buckets with lids @ $3/ea
Filters @ $2/ea

Stages Of Boiling

Stage 1 Fire pit & Evaporator “See pictures, video & design layout”.
Stage 2 Turkey Cooker “See video”
Stage 3 Stove “See Video”

Results “Maple Syrup”

We found that the Maple Syrup was light in color (Amber) for the big leaf Maple Trees and much darker for the other Sugar Maples, as seen in the pictures.

Learnings:

We found once you’re set up and have the initial cost that collecting the sap and boiling it down in the woods is nothing but time spent. So 100 gallons or 1,000 gallons would not of been any more cost other than time and cutting more firewood. We also found out that when burning Elm we only use 30 – 40 logs for our 100 gallons and we had plenty of wood to do 5 times that. It took us 9 hours to boil our 100 gallons down and with 3 pans we may of be able to cut that to 5 hours? We did have great weather for boiling, but a Sugar Shack would help shorten the boiling time even more. We also discovered that making Maple Syrup is easy to do and was much less work than we thought it would be. As for knowing when the syrup was ready we watched for the foaming and color and took it off the stove at that time (did not use a thermometer or barometer). We must of guess correctly each time as the taste and thickness were great/perfect on each batch.

When Do You Prune Fruit Trees – Pruning & Grafting Apple Trees.

When Do You Graft & Trim Apple Trees

Warmer temperatures are here, which means many of our activities we outdoors enthusiast love are upon us, such as; time to start tapping trees for Maple Syrup, cutting Scions, Pruning Fruit Trees (if not done in November), Cutting Firewood for next season, Clearing Downfall from Winter, preparing for the Spring Turkey Hunt, and well you get the point more activities then we have time for.

Today I find myself in the Apple orchard cutting new Scions for starting my own Apple Trees on the 64 acres of land I just purchased. The land needs some adjustments and one of those adjustments will be to plant a few hundred apple trees throughout. Yes since I have many different types of mature apple trees, which produce hundreds of new Scions each year (root-stock is less than $2), I will plant dozens of apple trees in selected areas. Down in the Valley I will plant mostly Connell Reds, with a few HoneyCrisp mixed in, since they do not require much work, are hardy to diseases & weather, and produce a lot of apples.

How to Create Better Deer habitat

In the pastures (fields) between the wooded areas I will only place a few trees (Conned Reds & HoneyCrisp) and let most of the pasture grow for deer bedding and the Pheasants. I will keep the grass trimmed around the trees, but only mow the field once every two years. All trees will require fencing, so I will buy 5ft Galvanized Welded fencing and make a 5ft diameter around the tree. I will use electrical fence post (3 post) to support the fence. Once the trees have been in the ground for 3 – 4 years I will cut the fence in half, double the circumference, wrap chicken wire around the tree’s base (very loose), add another electrical fence post (4 total), and move the fence up off the ground by weaving it on the 4 post. This will help protect the trees until they’re large enough to survive any damage the deer or rabbits my cause.

*Note; I put all my new trees (root-stock with sciosn) in a fenced off garden for two years before transferring them to the orchard or field. Currently I have just over 100 trees ready to be transferred from my garden.

On this new land I will start two different apple orchards, one close to the new home I’m going to build and the other on one end of the tillable. These two Orchards will include Connell Reds, Wealthy, HoneyCrisp, Sweet Sixteen, & Zestar. I will also plant White Spruce, Norway, & Blue Spruce in the deer crossing corridors to help reserve these crossing and to heighten the Deer’s sense of security.

When To Prune Apples Trees

Next weekend (Feb 18th) I will start trimming my apple trees in the orchard since the weather is warmer than usual. Typically I like to do this in November or the first of March, but with the warmer temperatures this year I will get an early jump on it. Once done with the Orchard I will get back out to the new land and continue to clean up the woods.

How To Improve Your Woods For Hunting

Another way to improve your woods, other than planting trees is to cut down some trees. By taking down dead trees, cleaning up downfall, cutting up trees that are leaning, and making brush piles you can improve the floor of the woods greatly. The brush piles will create cover for game such as rabbits and grouse, while cutting up the trees allows for more sunlight to penetrate to the ground/floor and improve vegetation and new tree growth. You can also thin out smaller diameter trees to allow for the larger and more mature trees to grow and develop faster. Both of these techniques will enrich your woods and make it cleaner and easier for walking and hunting.

*Note, be careful in sloped areas or areas of erosion. If you have questions or are concerned about Forestry Management consult your DNR Forestry Dept.

How Do Honeybees Make Honey!

Collecting Nectar & Pollen For Winter

It’s Oct 24 and there are only a few warm days left for the Honeybees to gather nectar and pollen for their Winter food supply. So this is why you see so many Bees working aggressively during these final warm Fall days. Yes, Honeybees use both Nectar & Pollen for a food source and here is why!

Collecting Nectar

To make Honey a honeybee needs to fly to several hundred flowers to gather its Nectar. To collect this nectar the bee sucks it from the flower and stores it in its Nectar Sac, or a separate stomach for just storing nectar. When the nectar sac is full the honeybee will return to the hive and pass the nectar to the indoor bees via their mouths. These indoor bees will do the work of reducing the water content down by chewing the honey and passing it on to another bee until the water content is only 17% – 20%. To evaporate more water from the honey, the bees will place the honey into the honeycomb and fan it until the correct water content is reached, then the comb will be sealed with wax and stored for Winter use (food).

The Honey Process

So how was the honey made and where did the water come from. The water is in the Nectar the flower produced, but the honey is made as the bee sucks the nectar into its mouth. There the bees have glands that secrete an enzyme into the Nectar (sucrose), which generates glucose and fructose honey. Sounds gross right, but it does taste good! Note, Honey produced by Honeybees has a low pH that is inhospitable to bacteria, mold, and fungi, allowing it to last for years without refrigeration.

What If The Honeybee Gets Hungry

If the honeybee gets hungry and needs energy during its travel is can open a valve in its Nectar Sac, allowing a portion of the nectar to passe through to it’s stomach. At the hive the bee can eat honey already produced if needed. Note, A bee will produce 1/12 of a teaspoons of honey in its lifetime, so you can see it takes a lot of Honeybees to make a quart of honey.

Why Do Bees Collect Pollen

Pollen is used as a food source, but it does not produce the Honey we all know so well and like. The honeybee also stores the pollen on its back legs instead of in a special sac like the nectar, as you can see in the picture below. But how is it used? The bees will mixed the pollen with honey making a Bee Bread (food), which is rich in protein and the main food source for both the larvae and new baby bees. Note, A bee can collect about have their body weight in pollen.


What To Do When You Encounter Bees – Attacking Bees

How To Minimize Bee Stings Once You Have Disturbed Their Hive

The most common bees that Outdoorsmen encounter during their Hunting, Camping, or Hiking adventures are the Yellow Jackets. So you need to know what to do when you have accidentally disturbed a hive? Now the question is NOT are you going to get stung, but rather what to do to minimize the number of stings? Here I will give you a few tips on what to do based on which type of bee you have accidentally threatened.

Bumble Bees – Honey Bees – Wasp

These types of Bees are more aggressive toward their intruder, when the intruder stays in the immediate area. So run and seek shelter quickly if you want to minimize the number of times you’re going to get stung.

While running try to protect the majors areas such as your face, if in the woods run through thick brush to help confuse the bees, and keep running until they stop their pursuit or you find shelter. Avoid getting into the water or thinking you can dive underwater to escape them. This is a false safety haven the many have come to believe will work. This does not work and creates a serious situation for you, as you must come up for air and the only thing exposed is your face.

Honey Bees

The Honey Bee can only sting once and then it will die, however the stinger along with the remaining venom is left in the skin of its victims. To avoid squeezing more venom out of the stinger and into your body remove it by using your fingernail or the blade of your survival knife and scrape sideways across the stinger.

Yellow Jackets – Ouch!

Yellow Jackets are different then most other bees and running make things much worse and the reason I’m writing this article. I have accidentally disturbed these bees many times and this past weekend was another exciting one. You will see the bees and my plastic bag next to the log in my video and I will explain how I avoided hundreds of stings. Oh ya, these things hurt like heck and I prefer the Bees mentioned above over these things. If I had to decide which ones I want stinging me I would start with the Honey Bee!

How to minimize Yellow Jacket Bee Stings

I learned at age 8 not to run from these guys as I got stung 102 times, so here is what I do. Once I realize what I have done I start stepping backwards, keeping them off my face, and killing as many as I could during their attack. Yes, you will get stung as I took eight to twelve hits in this case, but I avoided hundreds of stings, which is what would have happened if I just started running. The last time I was in this situation was just last year in my Apple Orchard, and I only got stung 5 times then, so I strongly believe this is the best way to avoid Yellow Jacket stings, other than not to piss them off in the first place.

Avoiding Hundreds Of Stinging Yellow Jackets

Here is my story. I was in the woods clearing my last shooting lane for Archery when the log I just pushed started pouring out Yellow Jackets. Now due to experience I know exactly what not to do (Do Not Run!). Running makes these bees more aggressive and they will follow the air stream or vacuum you create when running and be on you quickly. Instead I dropped the plastic bag I had in my hand and continued backing up, away from the swarming bees. I then killed any Yellow Jacket that landed on me or stung me since they can sting multiple times. I also focused on protecting my face and mashing bees against my body or between my hands. I continued this, while walking backwards, until no more bees attacked.

Now, I very fortunate as I’m not allergic to bee stings or or insect bites, but let me tell you it still hurts like hell. I have always said I would prefer Honey Bees, Wasp, or Bumble Bees, over those Yellow Jackets. But it seems the only Bees I ever encounter anymore in the Woods or Orchard are those dang Yellow Jackets. Last year I was pulling some fence out from around my Apple trees and again opened up a hive. Yep, I got it that time too, but only a few stings, and I was in shorts, a muscle shirt and sandals without socks. Now the Black Lab took off 90 miles an hour, but I walked away slowing, getting stung maybe 5 times, but on the ears. Which brings up another good point.

What Part Of Your Body Do Yellow Jackets Attack First

Yellow Jackets like to go high with their attack and will head for the ears of its prey first, then the neck, face, & head. So focus on keep these areas protected during any attack.

Tips For Minimizing Bee Stings

1- know your bees and how to react to each type.
2- If you disturb a yellow jacket nest slowly walk away protecting your face, ears, head and neck. Do not swat at them as they will quickly sting your hands. Swift movements will only attract more yellow jackets.
3- Use thick brush or vegetation when trying to escape from bees. This will help confuse them and minimize the number of bees pursuing you.
4- Seek shelter as quick as you can
5- All but the Honey Bee can sting multiple times, so kill as many bees as possible during your escape.
6- Do not use water as a safe haven (security) as this creates a serious and dangerous situation for you.
7- Allergic reactions to bees stings may cause shock and life threatening conditions. Those with known allergies should carry sting treatment kits and be prepared to seek prompt medical attention if stung.

Yellow Jacket Video – 20 Minutes Later

Here are the Yellow Jackets I disturbed, using my phone I took this small video. You can see even after 20 minutes these bees are still pissed off! Also note the sound, not the bees themselves, but the humming sound. It sounds like a magnetic field or some type of energy field phasing in and out.