The Explorers were in the middle of snack time when we got the word, "Put your coats on and come outside for a few minutes. Brendan is here to tap the tree." We all stood up, put on our coats, and headed outside for a favorite combination Schoolmates/Bushy Hill Nature Center annual event: the tapping of the maple tree on our playground.
The Explorers and preschoolers eagerly stood in front of the maple tree. Brendan showed them the drill, hammer, spile and hook, bucket and lid that he would need for the job. He talked them through the entire process and asked them to keep an eye on the sap level in the buckets for him. The children take this job seriously and will check the sap level every time they are on the playground. They love to watch the sap drip, drip, drip into the bucket. Bugs sometimes find their way to the sweet liquid. The finder of a bug will run to the nearest teacher to report this discovery.
When I asked Brendan, "How do you know when it's time to tap the trees?"
He answered with a question for his audience, "What holiday did we just celebrate?"
The crowd replied, "Valentine's Day!"
That's right. Around Valentine's Day, we start watching for a combination of mild days, like today, and cold nights." Brendan explained.
Sap flows when daytime temperatures reach above freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius) and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing. The rising daytime temperatures create pressure in the tree, which gets the sap flowing. The sap will generally flow for 4-6 weeks.
This event—a visit from Brendan to tap the tree—sets more annual events into motion. We will read stories about sugaring—the boiling down of maple sap into syrup. The Explorers and preschoolers will visit Bushy Hill's sugar shack, where they will see the bubbling sap in the evaporator and taste the maple syrup made partly from their school's tree. We will also read a Schoolmates' favorite, Hey, Pancakes!, make Grandma's pancakes (the recipe in the book) cover them in Bushy Hill's delicious maple syrup, and feast together.
If you are interested in learning more about sugaring, the website Tap My Trees is a great place to start. The site has lots of valuable information, and you can purchase supplies from them. Tap My Trees