Back in mid-February, when we had a brief thaw and it felt a bit spring-like, we tapped the first of our maple trees. We are still getting the lay of the land here–discovering new things about the place as we go, and it proved to be an exiting challenge trying to recognize which trees are maples during the winter when they’re stripped of all their foliage. We don’t have a lot of maples, but we did find a decent handful, fortunately. Last year, when we were still living in Portland, we tapped our one and only maple tree (actually, it was growing out of the sidewalk in front of our house, so it probably wasn’t officially on our property, but fortunately no one seemed to mind!) We used a five gallon bucket, plastic taps, and plastic tubing. That worked pretty well, and we got a decent amount of sap out of the tree, but now that we have a few more trees, we decided to tweak our system a bit. We considered purchasing the traditional metal buckets, and aesthetically-speaking they are my first choice by far, but we found them to be a bit pricey. So we opted for a system similar to last year, with a couple of significant changes. We’re using the plastic tubing, but instead of plastic taps we went for sturdier metal ones this year, as the plastic taps broke when we pulled them from the tree last season. For sap collection containers, we’re going with an option that I recall reading about at one point (though I can’t remember where)– recycled five gallon plastic screw top cooking oil containers. We found a few local Chinese restaurants that were happy to give them away, barely blinking an eye at our request (unlike when Ben asked at one particular chain restaurant and they looked at him like he was totally nuts and yes they might have oil jugs but no they could not possibly help him). Anyway, we managed to scrounge up enough of them from other places, and after scrubbing them clean of oil residue (which was a bit laborious, I admit), they were ready to go. Best of all, they were free! The best part of the process as far as Connor and Ian were concerned, though, was the actual tapping the tree part. Not only did it require the use of a drill (which adds excitement to any project) but, like magic, sap immediately started to drip out of the tree. Positioning themselves under the taps, the boys caught drops of the watery liquid in their mouths, excited by the the tiniest bit of sweetness they imagined they could taste–and surely anticipating the great sweetness this sap would become.