We made maple syrup! Dan's been talking about tapping our trees for a few years now and this year he made it happen! We really didn't know what to expect going into it. We have 3 very large silver maple trees and our neighbor has a medium-sized sugar maple that he let us tap, as long as we promised not to kill it. Dan did all the research, gathered the supplies, tapped the trees, and collected the sap. After less than 3 days, we had collected about 20 gallons of sap, mostly from the two trees on the front of our lot and from our neighbor's tree. For some reason the sap from the tree behind our house ran slower than the others. This past Sunday, Dan spent the entire day outside boiling the sap down over a fire. He built an outdoor stove-like fire pit out of bricks and our neighbor's camping fire grate, on which a fire burned from about 9:00 am until 9:00 pm slowly boiling down our 20 gallons of sap. Oak and I joined him outside as we could and several friends and family members joined us around the fire throughout the day. It was fun to make a day of it with family and friends, just sitting around, drinking beer and tea, watching sap boil and a fire burn. It was quite lovely, although a bit chillier than the forecast had predicted. Around 9:00 pm we brought the boiled down gallon of sap into the house where we reduced it even further down to half a gallon. We used a candy thermometer and a drip test to help us know when we had reached the perfect syrup stage. After straining and bottling it, we ended up with over 4 bottles of honey-colored maple syrup! The syrup is delicious, with a slight earthy flavor, which we really enjoy. By the time we were done with the whole process, it was after midnight and we were very ready for bed.
The overall process was easier than expected. The sap collecting was simple and productive. The boiling process was also simple, but it took a long time. For next year, we have hopes of burning the fire hotter and speeding up the boiling process a bit. While we definitely didn't come out ahead as far as costs go, as we had to invest in the necessary supplies this year, it was well worth the cost, time, and effort. We are so glad we did it and we're excited to make it an annual tradition on this little urban homestead of ours!