This year we started this 10 taps and only collected sap for a week. Since it was a warm winter, the sap in the trees started running much earlier, so we ended up beginning our tapping at the end of the sap run, even though it was only the second week in February.
So, we began by setting 2 taps in each of our large Silver maple trees. We collected morning and night, keeping the collected sap in food safe five gallon buckets and storing them in a large walk in cooler (sap must remain chilled until you process it)
My three older children (9,8, and 3) had an awesome time drilling the holes and hammering in the taps! It was such as fun process and great learning experience for all of the kids.
After collecting about 40 gallons of sap, we began our cooking day mid morning on a Saturday. We collected several large pots and built a few different fires and began the cooking process. As the sap would boil down, we would add the remaining sap until all of the sap in the buckets were in a pot. Then it was just a waiting game as it cooked away.
We made an entire day of it, and even cooked our stew next to one of the boiling sap pots. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and made it a wonderful family day. It was the most fun, as a family, we had in a long time!
We boiled well past dark, and once the sap had boiled down to about an inch to an inch and a half, we strained the sap into a smaller pot and moved into the house for the final boil!
We started with 40 gallons of sap and ended with 1 gallon of syrup! Not bad and was perfect for the ratio (40 gallons to 1 gallon).
We had such a wonderful time and have enjoyed having our own syrup so much, that we are planning on doubling if not tripling the amount of taps and trees we do next year. We also are going to pay closer attention to the weather patterns to ensure that we have a longer sap run to work with! That would provide us with a TON of sap!
Another idea we are going to put into place next year is to put in a sap cistern. We are purchasing a 100-200 gallon water tank that we will bury in the ground. We will then store our collected sap in the cistern until we are able to process it. This will ensure that the collected sap stays at an appropriate temperature.