The Lemonade Chronicles: Maple Tapping

It’s the inaugural post of The Lemonade Chronicles. Because when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Basically this is our way of chronicling the things we try that didn’t really work as we’d hoped or expected, but we did the best we could to make a good situation out of it or to learn something new.

We’re early in our Radical Homemaking journey. We have A LOT to learn. And perhaps out there, either currently or in the future, will be another family similar to ours who is trying to learn to live more on less and to move towards a Radical Homemaking life while living on one income and without owning a home or property. We’re starting from scratch, and maybe these ups and downs we’ll go through can be of help to someone. And if not, this can be a great journal for our posterity of what we tried and how we lived.

So, now on to the real reason why you came here! The maple tapping.

While on the way to our family spot, Cameron (being the biologist and botanist he is) got super excited at all the trees we were passing. “These are maples! These are maples!!!”

And then we got a crazy idea. If these are maples, I wonder if they can be tapped?! Being the hands on people we are we decided to try it. Cameron read and researched, but there really wasn’t a lot of information out there about maple tapping in Arizona.

Finally he found a study that was done in Utah on the variety of maples that we have here, Canyon Maple. The article showed that it was possible. That’s all we needed to know. So Cameron got supplies and we waited for the right temperatures to start hitting the area to get the best sap flow.

He was so excited when we finally decided it was time. He drove the hour up to the spot and set the first taps. For the next few days though I had to be away with the car, so we couldn’t check our taps. We drove up finally to go see our overflowing sap bottles and we were super disappointed to find only 1/2 cup total.

We’re not the type to just give up there though. Cameron set new taps in new trees, and these started flowing immediately. We were so excited and sure this was going to be it!

He used cleaned out cheap soda bottles as the collection “buckets”, along with plastic pipe that inserted into a drilled hole (this doesn’t hurt the tree, and the hole closes back up through the year as it grows).

He went back up a week later to collect the sap, and this time he came home with quite a bit more than last time. Still though not as much as we expected. Only 1 1/2 quarts. But that was enough to test!

We boiled it down, and down, and down, and down and finally got our maple syrup!!

All 2 TBS of it.

To get a gallon of syrup we’d have to collect around 160 gallons of sap.

The syrup definitely had a maple flavor, but it was not as strong or as sweet, and almost had a slight fruity flavor to it.

So, could we tap Canyon Maples here and make syrup every year? Yes, yes we could.

Is it worth it? No, it’s really not. We have to drive one hour one way to collect sap and the terrain is quite steep so it is extra cumbersome and takes extra time to work to the various trees. The amount of time we’d have to spend driving, tapping, and collecting, not to mention the gas expense, way WAY out weighs the return on the sap/syrup.

If we lived 15 minutes away, or if we could spend a week winter camping in the area and tap trees non stop, then we might could make it worth it. For now though, it’s not worth the effort, time, and expense.

BUT!

We made maple syrup from sap that we tapped ourselves from local Arizona trees! And that’s pretty cool!

If we ever lived closer to the stand (or found a closer one), we’d love to test out times of year to get the maximum flow, tapping techniques, and we’d even love to try tapping some different trees (apparently there are a number of types of trees that you can tap beyond maples)!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Shari says:

    Ah! Maple tapping! That’s amazing! We’ve bought maples trees several times to grow on our property with our own lemonade experience. I loved hearing your story!

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    1. I’ve wondered if we could get maple trees to grow! Did you get sugar maples? More local maples? I wonder how to make it work here?! Hmmmm

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  2. Tia says:

    Oh my goodness what a fun project to try! I love how you guys are adventurous in trying things like this- and I love even more that you are sharing it! That is crazy how it only boiled down to so little syrup! But still really exciting you tapped and made it yourselves!

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    1. I figured if we were going to share our journey, we had to share even the things we try that didn’t work so well. That’s part of this journey and this process. But really, it was a fun adventure to try and we’re really glad we did it! And that tablespoon of syrup we each poured over our ice cream that night was pretty much the best ice cream topping we’ve ever had, lol.

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