When I tap a maple tree I usually drill into the tree on the south-facing side of the trunk at a level about three feet above the ground using a 1/2 inch drill bit aimed upward into the tree at a 45 degree angle. After the hole is drilled I then tap the spile into the tree using a rubber mallet. You pick your time wisely, no matter the time you choose, the sap will run for 6 weeks before the hole begins to heal up, so you pick the time when daytime temperatures are above freezing and nighttime temperatures are below freezing on a pretty regular basis, even if this doesn’t happen the sap will still run but not as plentiful or quickly…which means that early to mid-March is usually the best time of the year for us to tap the trees.
Sap can be used in a number of ways, not just for maple syrup. You can drink it “as is” straight from the tree, it is full of delicious enzymes and minerals, tastes mostly like water with a slight sweetness. When you boil off the water to make syrup, at about the halfway point of boiling when the sap is starting to take on a brownish color from the concentration of the sugar but is still quite watery, this type of “sap” is awesome for making coffee and every year it is a real gourmet treat that I always look forward to..I am enjoying a cup of “sap coffee” even as I type this 😀
The weather has been nice and sunny, the ground warmed and drying out from the recent snow melts, and so we have been digging ground and planting. Thus far we have planted fava beans, mache, onion sets for green onions, peas, some radishes and some lettuce…nothing has sprouted as of yet though. Of them all, fava beans are definitely my favorite and one of the most interesting early season crops. Like beans, they will grow in almost any soil, even poor soil, but unlike beans they prefer cooler temperatures not over 75F but will live all the way down to 15F. They will sprout in soil temperatures less than 40F when most other plants will not, the seed is also big and easy to handle making it ideal for toddlers to help in the planting. Also it is unusual looking, growing about three feet tall with many black and white blossoms..here, planted in March at 1-2 inches deep and 8-12 inches apart, it will give it a crop around mid-late May and then in early June I usually pull them out and put okra there or sometimes more beans. This year, however, I am trying something new, it will be late season potatoes that replace the favas to be harvested in mid October right before the frosts hit.
There is also the matter of some chickens that need to die, half-breeds that we will not breed and must die before we begin to collect eggs for incubating and hatching. Every year we hatch multiple batches of chickens, keeping hens and raising up roosters on grass till they are about 20 weeks old and then eating them. There are 5 current half breeds that must die, probably within the next three days and I will make a HUGE batch of broth to can and put up…plus there is all the eating of the chicken soup and the chicken and dumplings and the chicken salad and chicken fajitas etc…
Most of our days for now though involve schoolwork and more schoolwork…and so much schooling leaves little time for a blog unfortunately. The state required standardized testing for home-schooled children is on April 1st this year, and this year will be Matthew’s first year in the testing, he is in kindergarten. So, everyone has been brushing up on all that they know, tying up loose ends, taking mock tests for practice and reviewing test taking strategies. I have no doubt that they will ALL pass the test, right now it’s just a matter of maximizing one’s score. As something fun, Nathan has been doing weekly trivia games with the three older boys, giving them buzzers to press and keeping score, almost like a game show, they all really enjoy it too! But I must honest, I am very much looking forward to the test being done and over with and then it will be like summer break for the children and we can all give more time and attention to the garden and being outdoors in the warm sunshine.
Thank God there is finally light at the end of this dark winter tunnel!