View Full Version : Never say never!

02-03-2013, 03:24 PM
Well looks like Illinois made it on the board!!

Started tapping today. Got about 150 out this morning. Had a few drops but don't expect much till
tuesday at the earliest. If the weather forecast holds up, should run well for most of the week.

Hope there are a few other Illinoisians out there. Lets here it.

02-10-2013, 12:36 PM

We are in Northern IL, We tapped in about mid- week and finished up today. Some were dripping but not too much action yet. The wind is pretty strong from the South today so I'd say no collection tonight. We've got the sugarhouse ready to go, woods stacked, tanks and lines all flushed, just need sap!


02-10-2013, 08:36 PM
I finished tapping last Monday. 324 taps in this year, don't know if I will add more or not.

We had a good run mid week and again this weekend. We had
+50 degrees today and it didn't freeze last night. Sap is slowing down. Don't know if it will freeze tonight or not. Temps are supposed to cool down this week. This should keep the run going.

First run made 2.5%, been holding at 2.2 for this weekend. Have 8 gallons finished and I'm working on another 4 -5 gallons before I settle in for the evening.

Hope you have a good run this week. I know the northwest IL is a lot different than central. Good Luck.

02-12-2013, 03:04 PM
I am thinking of tapping this week however this weekend is suppose to go below freezing. I am just not sure if I should tap yet or not. BTW I am 30 miles south of Chicago.

02-12-2013, 10:04 PM
Collected sap on Sunday and today, ran the evaporator tonight, had a local group come through for a tour so it was nice to be running while they visited. Wish we had syrup to sell yet but it will be a couple more days. Tomorrow and Thursday look like good days but then highs are suppose to drop to the mid 20's until Monday. I think we will pull everything out of the evaporator on Friday and finish and bottle. Then we’ll get ready to go back at it first of the week.

Flat, 300 means you are quite a bit bigger than us, are all of your trees hards or do you tap some silvers too?

Dark, we are 100 miles straight west on North Ave. so we are fairly close as far as North & South. I would maybe tap this weekend, things should start running first of the week if Skilling's forecast is right.

02-13-2013, 11:51 AM
Hey Mounder

I tap all sugars. Only have a couple of silver maples on the farm. I cooked yesterday and I am at it again today. Really expect a big run today. It warmed up quickly this morning and will get near 50 today. Still running over 2% so I think the trees made a lot of sugar last growing season because of the drought, much like the grapes and black berries.

I haven't had any groups out in a long time. The kids got older and the schools can't afford day trips any more. Plan to have an open house sometime soon. Usually have a big brunch and lots of fun.

Dark - I would tap as as soon as you can now. I think even with the freezing weather we are predicted to have it won't hurt to have your taps in and ready to go. Just don't drive them in too hard with the frozen wood so you don't split the tap hole. You can always return to seat them a little tighter later on.

Good luck all. Keep us posted thru the season.

02-14-2013, 06:54 PM

We're about 25% silvers and the rest are hards. Trees were running pretty decent today. Sitting in the sugarhouse with the evaporator running right now. We should burn through all the sap by 10:30 or so. Starting to get nice color in the pan.

We have 125 first graders coming at the end of the month, as well as a couple 4H clubs are scheduled. Our kids are still in school so they think it's pretty cool when the school has a field trip to their house.

I think an open house would be awesome, we have talked about it for some time, hopefully we can get it done next year. Have a breakfast, give tours, sucker a whole bunch of friends and family to help.

02-14-2013, 08:30 PM
My tap dates:
2007: Feb. 21 (10 taps)
2008: Mar. 1 (24 taps)
2009: Mar. 3 (33 taps)
2010: Feb. 27 (33 taps)
2011: Feb. 13 (33 taps)
2012: Feb. 19 (33 taps)
2013: ??? (33 taps)

I collect after work during the weekdays and boil on the weekends. I'm currently limited by the 10gph I get from my homemade ovens.

30 miles SW of Chicago.

02-14-2013, 08:41 PM

Pretty cool little set up you got there.

02-14-2013, 11:59 PM
Thanks MapleMounder. I've been trying to improve every year since 2007 (steam tray sitting on a shelf rack over an open campfire) through trial and error.

I'm really glad to have found this site. I thought there would be others in Illinois who were doing this, but I never knew how to find them.

02-15-2013, 08:23 AM
Hello, im new to the forum and a newbe to sugaring. I tapped 4 maples and two box elders the first of this month. My kids and i are having a good time with it. I've made a couple quarts of box elder and a couple guarts of maple. Im located in northern calhoun co. I'm suprised how many folks here seem suprised when i tell them were making syrup. I'm sure it was pretty common back years ago. Looking forward to connecting with others out there.

02-15-2013, 10:27 AM
Hi louis

sounds like you and the family have some great fun ahead. I tried box elder syrup once. A guy in deep soutnern Illinois made a point of making it once a year. A little bit different in the taste but still just as sweet. I'm in norther Schyuler Co. so not too far from you. I have run into a lot of people that can't imagine that syrup can be made here. But I've meet alot of folks that remember their relatives making it years ago.

Its been a good week of running sap but now it looks as if we will get a week off after Monday. Time to get caught up on other things.


Nice set up as well.

02-15-2013, 12:01 PM
Hi flatlander, Thanks for responding to my post. I remember my great uncle tapping maples when i was a kid. I was pretty amazed at the whole process as a child. I've noticed the sap flow is slowing down compared to last week. I've got 20gal of sap in the freezer. I would like to try and make some maple cream/butter if i can find a good recipe. I can see where this hobby can get addicting. Nice chating with you and good luck.

02-15-2013, 07:22 PM
Guys it is amazing all the people that are surprised we sugar in Illinois. My great grandfather sugared just North of Freeport back in the day. We still have about 40 of his hand carved sumac taps.

The other night we had a tour come through the sugar house and one of the questions was what type of maples do you tap. I explained and said believe it or not box elders are even maples, you should have seen the funny looks I got! Loius does it really taste much different?

Sounds like we all have a similar story, a hobby turned quickly into an addiction.

02-15-2013, 08:06 PM
Hi mounder, When i tapped the box elders i thought about combining the sap with my hard maple sap.I'm glad i didn't because i would have never known the difference. The box elder is somewhat different. Its a little fruity or butterscotch. It's good but i think maple is king.

02-16-2013, 08:20 PM
Well i just finished up a gallon of syrup tonight. Its time consuming but worth it. Really cooled back down sap not running to much here.

02-16-2013, 08:35 PM
We had a box elder but lost it in a storm so we never got a chance to tap it.

We finished and bottled the first of this season last night, roughly 2 1/2 Gals. We had a lot of fine sugar sand though, even after filtering. I have been over on the other site tonight trying to find a solution to filtering. Have you guys been running into any filtering issue this season?

02-16-2013, 09:11 PM
The batch i cooked tonight had alot of fine sugar sand in it. I filtered it through a large coffee filter it seemed to work but it was really time consuming

02-17-2013, 08:15 AM
Hey Mounder and Louis

I bottled yesterday as well. We bottled up about 15 gallons but still have about five gallons to bottle today. It started out very clear but even after two filters it still is a little cloudy. I need to invest in a filter press. I think the longest most time consuming process that we have is filtering and if we don't don't get it right then the product looks poor. Color is better than last year though so that is a good thing. A nice amber color.

Sap should start running again today and run real well tomorrow.

02-17-2013, 09:32 AM
Well it sounds like you guys are having a similar problem with filtering. I think we are going to order some filter aid tomorrow and hopefully can scrape the money up for a hand press by Daryl soon.

Not sure that the trees will run today but tomorrow it is suppose to be in the mid 40’s so they should. End of the week is looking interesting, weather man is saying a “big possibility for a significant snow event”. One of the NOAA models has is in a belt of 18 to 24”’s of snow.

02-17-2013, 05:04 PM
Guess i better watch the weather. I havent paid much attention to it lately. A snow like that would really shut things down here in calhoun.

02-20-2013, 08:12 PM
Well they are finally calling for 4” to 8” of snow here tomorrow afternoon into Friday. Far cry from a “significant snow event”. The 7 day has the temps back up in the high 30’s and low 40’s by first of the week so we’ll be back at it. Hopefully the weather will average out and we can get some nice big runs and the ever popular all night boils!

02-22-2013, 08:36 AM

How did you fair with the snow up your way? We managed here 4 -5 inches. But now the weather forecast has only one day above 32 for the first part of the week. Looks like I'm down for the rest of this week and most of next.

Hope it dosn't go to 60 overnight and then stay there. I'm still hoping for that elusive 40 gallons/season but I am really hoping to hit 50 since I added another 55 taps this year.

02-22-2013, 12:30 PM

We ended up with about 4” last night and probably another 1” today so sounds like we got about the same as you. As for the forecast, who knows, one station says every day next week above 32. Another says only one above and rest in the upper 20’s. I have to say I thought last season was frustrating but this one is getting up there. I guess if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

We’ve only made a couple gallons so far so we need to make a lot more. Hopefully we can get a couple good runs in early March. My birthday is the 19th and we are usually finishing up up here around then. I do have some sap I am going to run this afternoon, maybe even finish off since I don’t have clue when we’ll get more.

02-22-2013, 12:50 PM

I know the frustration of the weather forecasts. Everyones different and it changes from day to day.

I decided Sunday night to empty the cooker completely and cook all the sweet down, I'm going to pull all the pans and clean them up. Hope to get it done before the weekend ends but it takes two to get the piggy back down. I have to set up a hoist when I get a real sugar house built this year. Too many other things that keep popping up on the schedule. Its always next season around here!!

Looks as if I didn't put up enough fire wood this year. Hadn't planned on the additional taps when I did that last winter. Already started pulling blow downs out of the woods so I can get started with that now too.

Hang in there. Winter ain't done yet.

02-23-2013, 06:07 PM

We’re hanging in there, just frustrating. They are calling for another snow I believe Monday and it looks like heavier accumulations down near you.

We emptied the evaporator and finished and cleaned the pans the other night

We ran short of woo last year so we over compensated this year. We figured what would it hurt to have extra wood. Since we have no sap today we actually dropped a big pin oak that got struck by lightning last spring and died. We got it all cut up and stacked, we’ll split it later this spring.

03-01-2013, 07:48 AM

did everyone survive the big storms. Had a total of 10 - 11 inches of snow and a little rain in between.

Sap ran again. Fired up this morning at 5A. We have about 400 gals to cook down, about 2.3%.
Really need to invest in an RO unit for next year and then the big jump to vacuum.

Louis, did you get more rain than snow? Monder, how much snow did you get?

03-01-2013, 05:07 PM

Glad to hear sap is running good down South. Trees ran decent up here yesterday, We collected about 60 gals at 1.9%. Fired the evaporator about 2:30 today and we are running through the sap now. Wife and kids are getting supper together and well all eat in the sugarhouse tonight, kind of a Friday night tradition during the season. As far as snow we ended up with about 8” all said and done over the last 48 hrs. It sure is blowing around a lot today, I have already plowed our ¼ mile lane three times!

Not sure what late next week looks like for you but they are calling for high 40’s and sun up here.

Best of luck,

Mapler Jim
03-02-2013, 12:38 PM

I'm glad someone is doing well. We tapped a week after you did and except for a few days at the start its been lousy here. I have 13 taps on 4 trees. They are all white maples. One is about 1 1/2 foot across and the other 3 are hugh. Can't get your arms half way around them. When we tapped them only one tap ran and it ran at about 2 drips a second. Since then we collected only 3 times. Thats 1 gallon, 4 gallons and 3 gallons of sap. I boiled them down in the kitchen to a point where I had a quart of semi- syrup each. They are now in the frig. waiting to be added to the first big batch that I cook down. I never did this before, hope its ok. I usually use a turkey fryer on the porch but haven't had the volumn this year. Even last year, a real bad year, I collected enough to use the fryer. My first year I made 3 quarts of syrup from 3 tapps on 1 tree. Last year I made 4 quarts from 14 tapps The trees are right near the house which is real conveniant as I am 73 years old and walk with a wheeled walker. Not very good with the snow right now. I feel humbled next to you guys with your large setup but what the hay its a hobby and a darn sweet one at that. Our weather report shows the temps to be in the low to mid 30's to next Thursday. I think that will kind of suck. They say snow again on Tuesday.

I never thought of it but I guess the real old timer had to hand make all their equipment. I never heard of carving the tap out of Sumac. I sure would like to see them. If you ever get around to haveing that open house let me know, I would like to see your setup. It also gives us a reason to travel around. You know, cabin fever and all.

Have a nice maple run. Jim

03-02-2013, 04:08 PM

Proportionately your sap collection isn’t too horribly far off ours. It has been frustrating because just as the trees get running the temps drop and they freeze up. Late next weeks weather is looking good for us and your not that far away. I bet yours will start running good too. As far as storing your sweet in the fridge you should be fine, if you are starting to get worried pull it out and bring it back up to a boil for a few minutes and then cool and put it back in the fridge. Our operation might be big compared to you but there are many out there that boil my annual sap collection in an hour. As far as being humbled, I believe we are the ones who should be humbled, your are out collecting sap with a walker, that is awesome, shows what an addicting hobby this is, hats off to you sir.

Old timers had to be pretty inventive, I used to do machineing at one of my jobs years ago. I would start think while running a Bridgeport or lathe…… What type of machines did they use to make the first Bridgeports or lathes?............. because they didn’t have Bridgeports and lathes yet!

I think my generation and younger should take a cue from our past. We have become such a wasteful and unappreciative society. We throw everything away and don’t even try to fix it. There is a fine line between frugal and cheap but that is a post for a different thread.

Anyways be safe and good luck, if you are ever heading out this way throw me a PM and feel free to stop by.

Run Forest Run!
03-02-2013, 04:15 PM
I am 73 years old and walk with a wheeled walker.

If heart was sap, your buckets would be overflowing. Hats off to you Jim. You are inspiring.

Mapler Jim
03-03-2013, 03:45 AM

Thanks Rob, I will let you know when we are in the area. I have a brother in Pecatonica and we have friends in Oregon ( IL ) so who knows.

Mapler Jim
03-03-2013, 03:51 AM

Thanks Karen, for the comment. I just love the color of your syrup! With 10 taps and 2 fryers I hope it runs so you have to use both of them all the time.

03-03-2013, 07:38 AM
Mapler Jim

Sounds to me like you are as hard core about making syrup as any of us! What you put into it is what you get out of it. To me, you put in the most.

By white maples, I assume those are silver maples. Right now I bet they have really large red colored buds on the branches. I don't have many silvers here and I don't tap them, but from other posts and threads on this site, they can be real finicky. One year you'll get buckets of sap, other years you won't get much at all. Mounder may be right though, next week as it warms up into the 40's you may get a good run yet.

I had to look up your town on google earth. I know Pistakee Lake. Turns out I used to drive thru there from McHenry to Antioch and back when I was working a project up that way. Nice place up there. Always reminded me of alot of the little towns on lakes further north in WI.

Best wishes for a good maple season.

03-03-2013, 03:40 PM
33 taps finally in today with the help of my 5 and 7-yr olds. With a high of 35°F and direct sun hitting the trees, sap was starting to slowly dribble. It looks like next week will be the first good week for sap here. Although, with a snow storm now being forcast for NE Illinois, it looks like it winter is going to hang on for a while. If the snow brings good temperature swings, it will be worth it.

03-03-2013, 09:12 PM
Hello Everyone

This is are first year at this new adventure and we are hooked. We tapped our first three trees the 24th and collected 11 1/2 gals of sap since. Saturday my son and I built a block arch. It wasn't till 3:30 when we struck the match. 4pm first pan started to boil. 4:15 both pans off to a full boil. Three hours later we began finishing on the stove and ended with 34oz of syrup.

Sunday morning maple syrup covered pancakes, yum. Interesting flavor, it is different than others we have had. Sort of buttery. The wife thinks more butterscotch, I think more carmel kind of like the smell in a specialty popcorn shop. Either way it was good.

I tapped two more trees this afternoon and the sap was a flowing. Waiting for twenty more taps in the mail so then we will have a grand total of 30 taps.

03-04-2013, 10:51 PM
Sapster glad to hear you guys are tapped and ready

Treetapper becareful sounds like you have gotten bitten by the bug. We all started out with a couple taps and after that batch you find more trees. Welcome to the Trader

Mapler Jim
03-05-2013, 02:17 AM
Hi Flatlander;

When I first started, in 2011, I looked up the leaves from the trees on line and they matched White Maple. I'm going to have to recheck them as I seem to be getting more syrup per gallons of sap then I should. At this point I'll have to chalk it up to the novice in me.

I change our town from the post office, which is McHenry, because we are in the unincorporated area of mcHenry county and there are two towns between us and McHenry. We are 6 miles from McHenry but 2 miles from Fox Lake. We are on the west side of Pistakee Lake. I assume you took Rigwood road going to work.

There no big buds on the branches. They don't show up till quite late.

03-05-2013, 05:45 PM

I'm not bitten I can stop anytime I want to .................................after the sap stops running!

I did find a rough guess of about 30 silver maples. And I know there are some Boxelders somewhere. So next year we will expand.

03-06-2013, 06:13 AM
How much snow did you all end up with? We had about a foot here and man did it blow till about midnight. The drifts are up to the top of my snow fence, I had to go plow wind rows in the field to help stop all the drifting on the lane.

03-06-2013, 07:54 AM
9.6" here according to the airport

03-06-2013, 08:10 AM
We had about 1 inch. sap ran slowly the last 2 days. cooking it off now. another vacation day gone! still 2.5 % sap though.:)

Treetapper: you're hooked. There is no support group for quitting, only for getting you in deeper!
Mapler Jim why do you think that you are getting more syrup than you think you should from your sap?

Expect a big weekend of sap runs!!

03-08-2013, 07:15 PM
Anyone collect sap today? We had a few trees give about 4 gallons and some flat out stingy with a few ounces.

Mapler Jim
03-09-2013, 01:50 AM
Well finally, With 4 trees and 13 tapps we got 4 gallon of sap. Got so excited that I forgot to see what the sugar content was. This our 3rd year and we have never done it. Maybe the next batch. Next few days should be great !!!

Have a great run and lots of fun.

03-09-2013, 04:03 PM
Just got back from collecting I’d say about 75% of the taps were running, not a bad collection but thought it would be more. The wind is from the Southeast though and they are calling for rain tonight. We’ll have to see what the sap gods bring us tomorrow. Going to fire the evaporator up and run through what we got today. Good luck all!

03-10-2013, 09:50 PM
No sap today..well not enough to make a big deal about ( 2 gal. at best). Last nights above freezing temps are no help at all.
I hope it gets cold enough tonight. Plan on boiling 44 gal. tomorrow from my silver maples. They came in at 1.9- 2% sugar.
This weeks temps here look great. I hope the same for everyone else.

03-11-2013, 12:51 AM
Hope everyone is starting to see some sap flow. Since tapping last weekend, I collected about 2 gallons of sap per tap, most of which came over the past 3 days. It was a little wet today, but we processed 68 gallons of sap to produce 220 oz (1.7 gal) of Grade A Light Amber syrup. This was my best yield since 2007 (I boil to 10°F above boiling temp of water instead of the standard 9°, so my yields are slightly less than normal). Is anyone else seeing higher than normal yields/sugar content)?

03-16-2013, 10:24 AM
Well I have decided to shut things down for the year. Could have gone all this past week and this weekend and looks like the coming week will be good as well. But I'm out of wood and its time to get to other things. This has been a good year to say the least. I have never had sap stay at 2.2 % or higher for the entire season, it usually drops off to 1.6 - 1.8% and I certainly have never had such a high quantity of sap either. I did add another 55 taps this year but hadn't planned on that last year when I split all my wood. Produced just over 60 gallons of syrup, my personal best in a season!!!

I did change out/switch taps to those CDL clear plastic taps and replaced most of my older drop lines. I think that really made the biggest difference for sap quantity. I think I'm sold on the idea of new taps each year and new drops ever two years.

I hope all you tappers up in the north part of the state have a good rest of the season. Weather looks good for you for a while yet. Keep the kids involved as much as possible.

Good luck to all and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

03-16-2013, 10:41 AM
Sorry to see ya go Flatlander. Life has its priorities though.
The past two days have yielded 45 gallons on 30 taps.
Still waiting for a down pour, hopefully soon as I have other things to do as well.
Blessing to you, see ya next year.

03-16-2013, 07:04 PM

Congratulations on having a good season. 2.2% sap all season long would be great. Now comes the fun part…..Clean up. ;)

Up North here trees ran good yesterday and today. Ended up with all the 1st graders yesterday (had to post pone it from earlier in the season due to snow) they sure had a good time and got to enjoy the sap right out of the tap. Finished up a couple gallons last night for a local American Legion breakfast today, we work best under pressure.

As far as weather, I don’t think they have a clue. Every forecast for the last month and a half always has sunny 40 + degree days 4 to 5 days out that never come. Oh well if it was easy everybody would do it!:rolleyes:


Run Forest Run!
03-16-2013, 08:58 PM
I have never had sap stay at 2.2 % or higher for the entire season, it usually drops off to 1.6 - 1.8%.

This was very interesting to read. It never occured to me that a sugar level staying just over 2% would be considered really good. I learn something new every day when I read these posts. For some reason I was thinking that something closer to 3 for the season was normal for sugar maple. Boy, was I waaaaay off.

03-18-2013, 06:41 PM
Run Forest Run

I really don't know how other tappers fare with their sugar content. I tap all sugar maples, but my trees are all mixed in with other hardwoods, oak, hickory, walnut etc. My wife is my forester and she would shoot me and bury me under those trees if I were to manage my woodlands for that "maple tree". To most foresters in this part of the world they consider them to be weeds. After much begging and pleading, I got to keep some of them and "control" the rest of the woods!!

Any way, my maples compete quite heavily with the rest of the hardwoods, which may be why I may have a lower sugar content than other producers that actually manage their woods for sugar production. Guess I would be interested to know if in fact this is true.

i keep offering to weed out all the maples in the woods and manage for oak/walnut if the boss will let me buy some other ground to manage for maple! I never get an answer...

Hope your season goes well.