KAUKAUNA, Wis. (NBC 26) -- It's maple syrup season in Northeast Wisconsin.
In Kaukauna, 1000 Islands Environmental Center is hard at work tapping trees and collecting sap.
It's a labor of love. There's a lot that goes into making maple syrup.
First you need a maple tree and identifying one when the leaves are gone can be a bit tricky.
You can look for the helicopter seeds on the ground or the specific bark.
"One of the best ways to identify a maple tree this time of the year is to look at its branching," said Debbie Nowak, the Director Naturalist at 1000 Islands Environmental Center. "In maple trees, they're going to have opposite branching so everywhere there's a branch coming out there's going to be another directly opposite."
In order to retrieve sap without harming the tree, the desired diameter is 10 inches for one tap. You don't want more than 3 taps in a single tree.
You'll need a drill, a maple tree, a spile and a bucket.
Then you have to make sure the time is right.
"You can't use a calendar to figure out when to put maple taps in," said Nowak. "What you're looking for is this transition time after the cold winter months and before the warmer spring months. We are looking for 40 degree sunny days and below freezing at night."
At 1000 Islands Environmental Center, they tap about 200 trees throughout the community.
They've already collected 80 gallons of sap, but that won't get them very far.
It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
By the end of the season they'll have boiled down 20 to 30 batches.
With some upgrades to the sugar shack this season, they're hoping to cut down the time it takes them to make it.
They've added a new stove. A sap holding tank and reverse osmosis system were both donated to the center.
The syrup made at 1000 Islands Environmental Center is used for educational purposes and to thank the volunteers who donate their time and land.
The goal is to teach people the tradition of maple syrup making.
If you see smoke coming out the top of the sugar shack it means someone is boiling syrup.
You can stop in to learn more about the process. It is usually done on the weekends.
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