A little bit of history
According to legend, Indians first produced maple syrup when a brave stuck his tomahawk in a maple tree. The Story relates that the sap flowed into a container left at the base of the tree. The Indian squaw, believing the clear liquid to be water, placed the container over the fire. The boiling resulted in a sweet flavor and so maple syrup was produced.
Although there are many such stories told, we do know that early settlers produced and used maple syrup as a basic sweetener. In early times, gashes were cut in the maple trees to allow the sap to flow, but it was soon discovered that drilling a hole in the tree resulted in good sap flow and less damage to the tree. Sap was probably collected in wooden or clay trough like containers in very early processes, but wooden buckets or "keelers" soon replaced these. A wooden spout, or "spile", was placed in the hole in the tree to allow the sap to drip into the bucket.
Although equipment has been modernized, the basic process of producing maple syrup remains the same. Sugar makers may use metal spouts and buckets to collect the sap or it may be gathered through a network of plastic tubing connecting the trees to a central collection tank.
The sap is available only during the dormant stage of the tree and will flow only when the temperature is above freezing. In early spring, nature causes the sap to flow within the tree as warmer temperatures remove the frost from the tree itself and the ground surrounding the tree.