It's been a glorious Spring so far! I wrote a wee poem on Facebook earlier to celebrate the Spring Equinox...
Dear Spring,I love you very much.So much you make my heart leap and my belly flutter.I love you so much I spend weeks searching for you and then weeks watching you emerge, stretching out of your buds, leaves unfolding like a dragonfly's wings.Spring, when I wake up I grin at the feel of you. That unmistakeable energy you bring as the sap shoots up the tree and nests and dens are filled with the sound of the young.I love you for having the greatest soundtrack of all. Birds singing, bees humming and woodpeckers keeping the beat...Dear Spring, I love you!
...It's been a tough winter ;)
- An old water bottle, sterilised (I soaked it in a light bleach solution for a few hours).
- Thick string (I use old baler twine)
- A strong, sharp, CLEAN, knife. (I used my Chris Grant knife)
- Bit of solid wood about as thick as your arm, for a mallet. (I used a seasoned length of hazel I found near the Birch tree)
- A green twig as thick as your pinky finger. (I cut a fresh hazel twig)
- Choose a Birch tree that looks strong and healthy, with no visible fungi & with buds that look ever so slightly 'awake' or swollen. The girth of the tree should be over 25cm. I like to make my incision on a clean bit of bark (not knobbly).
- Taking the middle of your length of twine, make a clove hitch, slip it on to the neck of the bottle and tighten. Tie the twine around the tree, securely.
- Collect a fresh, green twig from a nearby tree, that's as thick as your pinky finger. Here I used a Hazel twig.
- Carefully, cut the twig to size, about inch or so is normally ok and scrape off the bark. This will give you a good clean bit of wood.
- Carefully cut both ends to a slope (in basketry we call it slyping). Make one end flatter than the other, this will be the end that goes into your incision. The flatter end of my peg is on the right of the picture below.
- Carefully cut yourself a small channel in the middle of the peg.
- Use your peg to check where you need to make the incision, remembering that about quarter of an inch will be inside the tree. Obviously the peg shouldn't over shoot the top of the bottle!
- Angle your knife upwards, with the blade horizontal. (see the pic below)
- Using your sturdy bit of wood, firmly and in a controlled manner (!) thwack the end of your knife, TWICE. The TIP of your knife should be in the tree up to about 1/4 inch.
- Give the knife a small wiggle, you do not want to break the bark. You should see a bit of sap gather on the knife.
- Remove the knife.
- Gently put the flat end of your peg into the incision. You don't need to shove it in, just put it in a few millimetres till you see the sap start to run down it into your bottle. Make sure it's not going to fall out.
- Birch sap is clear. If your sap is yellowy discard it.
- You can let your tap run for as long as you have bottles to catch it in. It will only stay fresh for a few days once collected and it's not recommended you drink too much as it can give you a bad belly.
- Don't tap this tree for another three years. (Is dependent on how much you take & how big your incision..)
- You can make all sorts of things with it. A syrup, wine, tea, cordial... I tend to drink it straight or make a cup of nettle tea with it & some honey. Quite a powerful energy boost for me that tea!