Then I had to wait. The time of year for tapping trees is early March, when the sap is rising. So... a couple of weeks ago, when early March came round, I gathered together a tapping kit...
...identified a likely looking tree in the garden...
...and stuck the knife into it...
...and nothing. Not even a drop. I wondered whether I hadn't pushed the knife in far enough, or perhaps it was too early in the year, or maybe I was trying the wrong kind of tree. In spite of the convenience of being in my garden, the tree in question didn't have a lot to recommend it as actually being a birch tree. (Note that in my excitement at it being early March, I didn't actually bother to watch the video again, with its helpful advice on identifying birch trees when they have no leaves on).
Considering the last possibility, I set off into the nearby woods in search of a more likely looking tree. Finding one that presented itself more convincingly as birch, I stuck the knife into it... and was immediately rewarded with a gleaming drop of sap! But that was it. One drop was about all that came out. Oh well, at least I'd accomplished the first step - find the right tree. I decided to leave it a while to see whether I'd have any more luck later in March.
So it was that yesterday I set off into the woods again armed with knife, pointy stick and bottle. This time was much more successful - when I stuck the knife in, sap came out of the tree and kept coming. I didn't exactly pour out, but there was a distinct trickle, as in the video.
The next challenge was making the sap run along the pointy stick, instead of straight down the tree. Even in the demonstration video on Youtube it took a few attempts, so I knew this wasn't going to be easy, and it wasn't. Still, out of maybe half a dozen attempts on three different trees, I managed to get one (not the last one) to work. Drips formed and fell from the end of the pointy stick - more success!
Then I just had to fix up the bottle...
...and waited. The sap was coming at a rate of about one drip every five seconds to start with, but when I checked back half an hour later (after trying other trees) it had slowed to one every twelve seconds or so. I decided to leave it and collect it later. It wasn't exactly discreet, being right next to the footpath and at eye level, but I don't think I've seen another person in those woods since we moved, so I thought I'd chance it. What would it matter if someone did see it, anyway?
I went home and spent the rest of the day digging, then went back maybe five hours later to collect my booty. Here's what I got:
Glass of birch sap, with cat's paw for scale. It's not just because she walked in front of the camera, honest.
That glass of sap is all I got. That's not a wine glass, it's a sherry glass, or possibly port. I'm not sure, but it's small. If I'd been dying of thirst I'd have been glad of it, but then if I'd been dying of thirst in those woods I'd have been up for a Darwin award, for not following the sound of water to the stream in the valley.
It tasted nice - bright, fresh and springlike is the best way I can describe it. Not terribly sweet, though. I had optimistically hoped to get enough to make a bottle of wine from, but I doubt there'd be enough sugar in it for that. Similarly, people do boil it down to make syrup, as with maple syrup, but that seemed equally unlikely.
In spite of the very small quantity, I'd still say it was a successful experiment - though perhaps not successful enough to bother repeating. It was an entertaining way to spend an hour or so, anyway.