Embarassingly out of focus shot of the ESS group
 carving their own sumac/elderberry spiles 

Today kicked off the beginning of the Earth Skills Seminar  A small group of us gathered at my house to celebrate the beginning of sap flow by making spiles. We’ll be checking them over the coming weeks to see which trees start flowing sooner than others (we’ll also check which ones taste better than others).

Spiles: (L to R) elderberry, sumac, late 1800s model, 1950s model

We tapped 13 different species:

  • Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
  • Boxelder (Acer negundo)
  • Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
  • Red maple (Acer rubrum)
  • White ash (Fraxinus americana)
  • Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
  • Apple (Malus domesticus)
  • Black cherry (Prunus serotina)
  • Big-toothed aspen (Populus grandidentata)
  • Black locust** (Robinia pseudo-acacia)
  • Smoke tree** (Cotinus sp.)
  • Black walnut (nigra)
  • Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) Zac thinks it’s a gray birch, but we’ll see.  

We’re planning on tapping European larch (Larix decidua), red oak (Quercus rubra), staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)**, and a buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)** as well.

** These species are potentially toxic and shouldn’t be ingested. I’d suggest doing background research before attempting to drink sap from species other than maples and birches, particularly since not all people are created equal and some, for example, react to sumac while others don’t.

For more on the process and our experiment, visit the Wild Burlington Blog.