Sunday, the Darlin'Man put in 19 taps, bought used at Alaska Feed. There is a section of birch forest at one end of our property that wants to be a pasture. We need a few cords of wood for this winter, and the next. And the next. Beautiful, that. How needs intersect and mirror eachother. Create abundance.
So we decided that we'd tap the trees, harvest the gift of their lifeblood before chopping down and harvesting the gift of their bodies for fuel. This serves a two-fold purpose: we get sap to sugar down, and it also keeps the wood drier. Apparently Russian peasants decimated huge swathes of birch forest across northern Eurasia by over-zealously tapping the trees, taking more sap than the tree could spare. We are trying to do just this, intentionally. This way, there'll be less moisture needing to be cured out of the firewood. So some trees have two taps, and one even has three.
Our running tally so far:
Sunday: 8 gallons
Monday: 12 gallons
Tuesday 12 gallons
Come to find out, it takes 80-100 gallons of sap for a gallon of syrup, compared to a mere 40 gallons of sap from the maple trees I grew up with in Maine.
I did boil down a couple pot-fuls and got about a cup of syrup. I wasn't too careful though, and it scorched, turning dark brown. You can taste the hint of burn, but it is intensely sweet goodness.
I found on HeyWhat'sForDinnerMom's blog, that she had the brilliant idea of evaporating down the sap into syrup with a crockpot. So wer're trying that. The stovetop method took WAY too much propane, it was worth it just to try and to see, but is certainly in no way sustainable. The brilliance of the crockpot method (for me) is that, due to my magic house the energy to run the crockpot during the day while we're gone is literally falling out of the sky. We'll see how that experiment turns out.
We've got plans laid, in various stages of completion, for birch wine and a couple of birch and birch based ales. I'll tell you all about it.
We're also drinking sap. Alot.
Since Sunday, I think I must have drunk a gallon of sap. Birch sap is suppoed to be an amazing spring tonic, full of micro-nutrients and minerals that are just what the body needs after a long winter. It tastes like faintly sweet water, and feels so good and so healthful to my body. It is a constant intention of mine to drink more water, and these past few days I have succeeded in doing so. It really does make a difference in how my body feels, and how it functions.
Birch Sap Resources:
HeyWhat'sForDinnerMom (She's also linked at PunkDomestics)
Taste of the Wild :Recipes!
and The Birch Boy