Maple Syrup Time

story & photos by Gail K.

Happy Belated Groundhog Day!!!
YEAH-its time to think Spring & that means
            –MAPLE SYRUP TIME !!! 
I would love to share with you, the opportunity I had to watch a friend tap his Maple trees—

Come along as Scott takes us on this unique adventure.

The clock said noon- the sun bright & a gentle breeze stroked our faces-the thermometer read a mere 27 degrees F; the snow squeaking beneath our boots as he loaded the supplies. 

Jugs, tubing, spikes, a hammer & most important a drill.

Jump in—using his new gator will make the trip to the woods much easier—HANG ON!!

Searching for the right tree – Scott shares some notable facts: ** for the sap to run, daytime temperatures
must be above freezing & below freezing at night. Last night’s temp was -4F. The forecast calling for day temps
to begin to rise; today 28 F

Stopping, we arrive at the first tree- He gets his supplies and walks over to the tree.  Scott uses *sugar maple trees:
silver maple and even box elder trees are acceptable.

 Scott inspects the trunk for a spot to drill; he has

tapped this tree before and shows me the scar–the process doesn’t harm the tree- healing over once the tap is removed……..

He studies each tree & carefully selects the spot- using a drill & marked bit, he drills a hole into the trunk. Watching this process closely it was Obvious he was looking for something; but what??? 

With the curiosity of a 2 yr old, I ask–WHY?Is there a reason why he picked that spot.

He shared: **follow a line, from where the trunk reaches out & hangs onto the ground; up to a level of comfort,

 for best results. (see below)

With the hole drilled, he blows off the sawdust and manually pushes the tap into the hole……

using a hammer to firmly tap it into proper position-

he uses two different types of spikes….the orange one above and a clear style below.

With the spike in place, he attaches a clear tubing; surprised in not seeing any running sap- maybe the

 next tree.

Above the connection with the orange spike-

Below,  connection with the clear spike.

There are several methods used to catch the sap Scott uses a gravity drain method..

attaching milk jugs to the tubing and securing them in place below the level of the tap.

we follow the rough pathways thru the woods-stopping to tap several more trees.  We must have done a dozen.

I enjoyed listening to him talk about the woods & its trees.

when I think we are about done-he stops & points to a tree off the path—

unloading the tote, he walks off towards the tree. 

This tree the KING of sap—look at the trunk-can you guess where the taps will be placed?

Did I mention-a major point of criteria-the trunk has **a diameter of at least 12 inches?  Scott knows that due to its size, this tree is capable of producing an abundance of sap

So Scott will tap this tree in a couple of spots.  Paying attention to the root formation at the base.

In fact, so much sap- each tubing will be attached to  a 5 gal. bucket vs a milk jug.  Now that is some major sap production.

With that done, we drive to the outer edge of the woods to tap the final two trees………

Located along the east pathway, they are exposed to more of the direct light from the sun.

As soon as Scott drilled the hole on the first tree,
 WE had SAP!!!!!   I was so excited I neglected to take 

the opportunity to use my finger to taste it —

 Below- With the spike in place it immediately started to slowly run down the tubing—get that jug hooked up!!!!

People are surprised when they see that the sap is clear and not the color of the syrup which comes from the bottle you use

on your pancakes….anyone else craving pancakes & waffles??

In fact, the sap has a high water content.

The process of getting “syrup” involves boiling off the water in the sap before it becomes syrup.  Scott uses this boiler

to do that..       ( more info on this- in Part 2.)

Today Scott sent this photo: so I am adding to the post……see the level of sap in the jug?? All this in just 3 days of tapping—- it won’t be long now. 

Did you enjoy our adventure?  I learned a lot and wasso impressed with the process that I never once was
bothered by the cold.  Scott has invited me back to
watch him collect the sap and to watch the processused to make syrup….I hope you will join me & MAYBEI can get a bottle so we can taste–I hear it is very sweet!!!!


the soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the

ecstatic experience.  Emily Dickinson

Gail sent me the newsletter, good information, I added the link below to the newsletter so you can interact with it.

This is the link to the newsletter:


Lost in the Weeds

Gail send this educational information. The link to register is at the end


Volunteers Needed

If you have a question or wish to volunteer email: rriprograms@gmail.com

The button for Volunteer and Ask A Question are not active. You can use the email address above

for those purposes.

stories and photos by Gail K.

Welcome back!!! President Marie opened the meeting and Jennie spoke to issues we need to address: officers, tours

and speakers.

The educational portion of our meeting was learning to identify trees & shrubs during the winter months.

ABOVE: Jennie shows one of the many reference books she finds most helpful.

BELOW: a few of the many samples brought in to help us practice in recognizing the features to ID a tree.

Jennie, using one of the specimens; points out a feature to focus on. Following her suggestions, the members

selected branches to ID.

ABOVE:–the two darker wood specimens  a female and a male winterberry….using berries or fruit is an easy way to help ID a tree or shrub.

BELOW:  Jennie sneaked in a trick plant.  Do you know what it is??  Clue word, plant: feature the seed head

Now is also a good time to ID conifers and other evergreen trees; using their cones, & needles to help.

Use the bark & other markings along the stems to help with naming a tree. The bottom one is labeled, can you name the

tree above????

Of course, another feature would be the buds found on your spring blooming shrubs and trees ex: Magnolia.It was great seeing everyone again– looking forwardto another exciting season-won’t you join us……..
Answers: trick specimen; Smilax Herbacea & the “camo” bark belongs to a Sycamore. g

Tree Sale

From Gail K.

Follow this link below for the Monroe County Tree Sale


Here is another opportunity: maybe a bit closer esp for you western county folks.

Check out the Lenawee County Tree sale-Adrian
Different products–but still offer trees and shrubsalong with daylilies (one caught my eye) &
 books–one on morel mushrooms as well as someother interesting topics.

Remember folks…..both of these organizations will
gladly welcome any volunteer help……..the only sad thing is that they are both on the samewknd which makes it rough……..but I am sure you canwork something out with either one……….

Here is a link to the site:


The storm passed, the sun came out and LOOK who flew in with hopes of finding dinner…………


photos from Gail K.

On the eve of a looming snow storm, look who’s back

Belle Isle part 4

photos & story by Gail K.

Belle Isle Part 4- The Conservatory

Leaving the outdoor formal gardens, we head inside to see the myriad of non-hardy exhibits.

We don’t even get thru the door when we spot a plant of interest. Jennie carefully dissects the plant parts to try & identify it.

apologies for the blurry photo-the plant in question? once inside, we enter a “tropical” realm-

With camera in hand, my attention is not always on the plants..but can’t ignore a vivid color display.

A lot of contrast among the plants, in the flowers & in the foliage as well…..

 sensory surge…….just try to pick a favorite        ( pink tendrils fall from a plant above!!)

the colors, shapes-such variety

     A living wall !!!!!

            An angel trumpet flower

  how interesting….. some of Mother Nature’s finest

 such contrast in the hues of the same color

such diversity, not a surprise that this transfers to the pollinators and birds of the tropical climates?

This plant so striking, I’m tempted to take up indoor gardening…….

From the lowest of low such as this ground orchid to the heights of this impressive display-the tropical dome touches all the senses…………

Not willing to go unnoticed- cactus in the small arid section put on quite an impressive & “touching” display.

Tall, short, pointed and rounded–all kinds

      so high above – so white below—-

          wonder who pollinates these flowers?

In a small outdoor courtyard we find a pond, waterfall and fish-along with native plantings.

It’s time to head home; leaving the conservatory we pass thru one more zone-can you guess which one??

Along with staghorn ferns, orchids find a happy home in which to thrive………..

I love this color!

No matter where or whose collection–seems almost mandatory that they have an area where Orchids are
the feature plant….a trend in today’s gardening

Before leaving, I drive around the isle, how lucky we are to have such a resource in our backyard.

Most of us want to see the Oudolf Gardens in another season;

 I hope you will join us when we return to Belle Isle.     g