Tap, Tap, Tap . . .

By , March 29, 2012

We found a jar full of odd metal fittings in our shed when we first moved to the “homestead.” We couldn’t figure out what they were for. We guessed that they might be anchors for tent poles or other thin supports. We set them aside, assuming we’d figure it out one day. That day came recently.

sap taps

The jar of mysterious tools, their purpose revealed (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

I recently tapped the birch tree in our homestead’s dooryard to make birch wine. Moose had browsed the suckers at the base of the tree, so when drops of sap appeared at the nibbled tops, I cut them clean below the break, and stuck a clean bottle over each one. There were only a few small suckers, so the low sap flow got me thinking of tapping birch trees for their sap.

I consulted a few books to learn about tapping trees. Most of the information focuses on tapping maple trees, but most of the tools and techniques apply to birch as well. One book included a drawing of a Grimm sap spout.

We knew that the people who built our homestead had sap spouts or taps. They told us that one spring, after a very dry winter, they’d tapped the birch trees for drinking water! Birch sap is very thin and clear, mostly water, but it is high in vitamin C and essential minerals. They told us the taps were probably still in the shed, but how to find them in all that clutter?

The answer: look for something else. While searching through the shed for a specific item, I found the jar of mysterious metal objects, glanced at them, and immediately identified them for what they were: tree taps!

I’m very fond of the saying: “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” All of a sudden, these taps are like change in a small boy’s pocket, burning a hole, begging to be used. I’m dying to try them out on our birches. I’ve even cast a speculative eye on our cherry trees!

But, I understand birch sap doesn’t keep well. I’ve got enough to top off that birch wine batch, and as I say, I’m not sure we’ll be eager to make more. However, I did run across a birch beer recipe that looks intriguing.

 

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