Thursday, February 17, 2011

Maple Time

  We have now had at least three days the were above freezing in the daylight hours (not necessarily three in a row, but that's okay) with frozen nights.  This means only one thing - time to tap the maple trees.  This is usually a family affair, but I was worried about missing the first sap rising, which is purported to be the sweetest, so I grabbed the tools and got to it.  Here are the necessary tools - very basic, really.
Hammer, hand drill, spiles and hooks

Don't forget the most important piece of equipment - boots!
There is still snow out there!

    I don't know why we do it this way, but when tapping the trees, we never use the battery operated drill, we use an antique hand drill that my husband has had for years. Using the hand drill takes more time, but you have a better feel for the tree with it.
   After heading out to the maples, I looked for the scars from past tapping and made certain I was a good six inches away from the scars.  I drilled out a hole about  and inch or so deep - it is easy to see when you have gone far enough since the wood fragments start looking mushy and wet.

    Next, just tap in the spile and wait for the first drips of sap.

Note the mushy looking wood fragments

Setting the spile

the first drops of sap

No sap buckets? No problem - cut a small opening in a milk jug, then recycle it when you are done.

 Three of the bigger  big maples wearing their late winter accessories
   It being a warmish day - high forties, I  went down to check the bees.  The girls should have been trying to take some cleansing flights, but I saw no activity and was filled with foreboding.  I knocked on the Blue hive, put my ear to it and heard nothing.  I took off the outer  and inner covers and saw dead bees on top.  Plenty of honey still capped, but the girls are definitely dead.  If there are any alive somewhere in the bottom of the hive, they were certainly being silent and still.  I checked the Flower hive and found the same thing  lots of honey, but no activity - no life.  sigh...very disappointing, but it is part of the nature of any agricultural venture that Nature deals your hand from her deck.  
   It seems plausible, considering the cold winter we have had, that even though there was food, the bees could not break cluster to move around to get to it.  Feeling a little let down, I went back up to the house and ordered two more packages of bees.  My local bee guy sells nucs as well, but he makes them from splits of his own hives.  The packages ship from Georgia, I believe.  Considering what I found, I cannot be certain he would have enough live hives to split, so two packages it is. 
     For now, the focus is on the maple trees. In a couple weeks or so we should have enough sap to boil down for syrup. Our sugaring off is as low tech as our tapping, but we have fun. More about that later. 
Have a good night!

1 comment:

  1. So interesting!! Please keep posting on the bees and the maple, I really enjoyed reading it.