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Bethany Sheffer showed  a Sharon Audubon MapleFest audience how to make a spile (a tap for getting sap from sugar maples) out of a piece of staghorn sumac on Sunday, March 12. Photo by Patrick L. Sullivan

Sap is running at Audubon

SHARON — In case you were wondering what to do with your staghorn sumac, Bethany Sheffer of the Sharon Audubon Center’s got you covered.

Sheffer and other Audubon staff and volunteers were out in force on Sunday, March 13, at the center in Sharon for the 2023 MapleFest.

Guided tours went up the trail, pausing at sugar maple trees, adorned with sap collecting buckets.

The penultimate stop was the sugar house, where Wendy Miller roved to and fro amidst the steam from the maple syrup boiling apparatus.

Miller explained it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. The sap boils at 219 degrees Fahrenheit, moving from different areas on the apparatus as the water boils off and the sap gets closer to the magic 67% sugar content needed for proper syrup.

If it continues to cook past that point, you’re getting into maple candy territory, Miller said.

The last stop on the tour was a short walk from the sugar shack into the woods, where Sheffer had a small fire going, with an iron pot containing sap suspended over it.

She explained how European settlers learned how to work with sap from Native Americans, and refined the technique.

About that staghorn sumac: The devices that are inserted into sugar maples to draw out the sap are called spiles. You can use modern spiles, or go the old school route.

Simply heat up a piece of sturdy metal wire in the campfire, and use the hot, sharp wire to hollow out a small piece of staghorn sumac.

Then sharpen one end of the resulting three-to-five inch hollow tube and insert into the nearest sugar maple.

Inside the center building, there were baked goods for sale. The first run of syrup, bottled just days earlier, was on sale in the gift shop.

Volunteers who weren’t leading tours were milling about, chatting with visitors.

It was a pleasant scene, and a reminder that when the sap begins to flow, spring can’t be that far off.

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