Making Maple Syrup: Tapping

Posted on April 4th, 2010 by Tonia 9 Comments

The woods are quiet
except for the birds singing
and the ping-pinging.”
-Maple haiku, by Tonia

A very long time ago, when the world was new, Gitchee Manitou made things so that life was very easy for the people. There was plenty of game and the weather was always good and the maple trees were filled with thick sweet syrup. Whenever anyone wanted to get maple syrup from the trees, all they had to do was break off a twig and collect it as it dripped out.

One day, Manabozho went walking around. “I think I’ll go see how my friends the Anishinabe are doing,” he said. So, he went to a village of Indian people. But, there was no one around. So, Manbozho looked for the people. They were not fishing in the streams or the lake. They were not working in the fields hoeing their crops. They were not gathering berries. Finally, he found them. They were in the grove of maple trees near the village. They were just lying on their backs with their mouths open, letting maple syrup drip into their mouths.

“This will NOT do!” Manabozho said. “My people are all going to be fat and lazy if they keep on living this way.”

So, Manabozho went down to the river. He took with him a big basket he had made of birch bark. With this basket, he brought back many buckets of water. He went to the top of the maple trees and poured water in, so that it thinned out the syrup. Now, thick maple syrup no longer dripped out of the broken twigs. Now what came out was thin and watery and just barely sweet to the taste.

“This is how it will be from now on,” Manabozho said. “No longer will syrup drip from the maple trees. Now there will only be this watery sap. When people want to make maple syrup they will have to gather many buckets full of the sap in a birch bark basket like mine. They will have to gather wood and make fires so they can heat stones to drop into the baskets. They will have to boil the water with the heated stones for a long time to make even a little maple syrup. Then my people will no longer grow fat and lazy. Then they will appreciate this maple syrup Gitchee Manitou made available to them. Not only that, this sap will drip only from the trees at a certain time of the year. Then it will not keep people from hunting and fishing and gathering and hoeing in the fields. This is how it is going to be,” Manabozho said.

And, that is how it is to this day.

{Ojibwe Legend}

Sweet, buttery, sticky, wonderful maple syrup has been made in my family for 23 years now.  We do it the Manabozho way:

Drill a hole in a tree,
Put a “tap” in the hole,
Hang a pail from it,
Collect the sap when the pail is full,
Boil the sap in an “evaporator” {a huge pan over a huge fire} until it becomes syrup,
Can the syrup in mason jars,

Back in the day, we used to tap 1,100 trees on our land, pouring what we collected into a big tank on a sleigh, pulled by a draft horse.  It was a lot of work, but we never thought of it that way.


There are too many wonderful things about syrup-making for it to really be considered “work”.  The smell of the air as the woods wake up for spring.  The sound of the sap as it drips from the tree.  The satisfying soreness of your arms after a long day of hauling heavy buckets.  The story-telling, snowball fights, pranks, and laughter.  The maple-steam billowing from the evaporator.  And of course, the first taste of syrup: hot, sticky, and worth it.

Even though we have scaled the operation back in recent years {we no longer have our horses, so we do all the collection on foot now}, syruping is still a beloved family tradition that brings us together, no matter what, every spring.

Some of our trees are large enough to hang two or three pails on.

When all the pails are hung, the woods fill with the soft sound of the sap dripping into the pails…ping, ping, ping…

Don’t let any snow get in the pails…

Make sure you save enough energy to have a little fun…

If you have a few maple trees on your property, I would really encourage you to try making some syrup!  Please feel free to contact me directly for more information about the process.  I would be happy to help you get started.  toniasimeone {at} gmail {dot} com

Stay tuned for the rest of the Making Maple Syrup series, coming soon!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tonia, Mike Sterner. Mike Sterner said: @IttyBittyImpact Great post about making maple syrup! […]

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by braveduck: @IttyBittyImpact Great post about making maple syrup!

  3. […] I explained here,we don’t tap as many trees as we used to, because we do all the collection on foot now.  […]

  4. mamamouseiam says:

    Manabozho was a wise man. (And I’ll bet he enjoyed that first taste of hot, sweet syrup as much as we do! Heaven on earth!)

    A Haiku for you:
    From a Maple’s tap
    sweet sap drops rhythmically
    tasty times ahead.

  5. mamamouseiam says:

    p.s. The photo of the sap droplet is amazing!

  6. […] you all.  Please let me know if you have any questions about the various steps in the process {tapping, collecting, boiling, […]

  7. […] This particular batch was made in April 2010.  Mike’s mom and dad came and helped us tap, collect, boil, and can.  Mike designed the “logo” for the […]

  8. Caitlyn says:

    I made the chocolate syrup and the Irish cream and they both turned out amazing! I am never buying Hershey’s chocolate syrup again. Oh man, it is so delicious! Thanks for sharing this recipe

  9. Jeri Taira says:

    It must’ve smelled so caramelly…is that a word? hee hee. Looks like some family memories were made. Awesome!

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