Homemade Maple Syrup: How-To Guide for Hoosiers

homemade maple syrupIt’s easy to pick up a bottle of maple syrup at the store, but have you ever considered making your own?  Yes, it is a lot of work, but tapping your trees is a great way to get outdoors and enjoy nature’s bounty. And when you’re done, you’ll have the sweetest reward for your efforts. Of course, it can be tricky to know where to start. All you need is the right setup, a few tools, and a little patience.

How to Identify a Sugar Maple

The first step for homemade maple syrup is locating your trees. Homeowners with more mature trees might be pleasantly surprised to find that they have a sugar maple right in their backyard. Sugar maples can be recognized by their brown pointed buds, shaggy bark, and the five wide-lobed notches on their leaves. The Indiana DNR has a helpful guide to help you identify trees by their leaves.

Look to tap trees that are wider than 10 inches in diameter. If you don’t have any sugar maples available, you can also try tapping sycamores, box elders, or birch trees. They all produce sap as well, though the sugar maple will yield the most for your efforts—between 5 to 60 gallons of sap each year. It sounds like a lot, but 10 gallons are needed just to make one quart of maple syrup!

How to Tap Your Trees

The key to tapping your sugar maple tree is temperature. In order for the sugar maple sap to be good for making syrup, the daytime temperatures should reach about 40 F. In Indiana, the maple syrup season typically starts in February and wraps up in April. This is when an enzyme in the tree becomes active, transforming starch into sugar. Tap your trees during these ideal temperatures to get the best product.  Follow these instructions for tapping trees:

  1. Drill a slightly angled hole upward into your tree, about 3 feet above the ground.
  2. Tap a spile (the drip spout) into the hole.
  3. Hang a sap bucket from the spile.
  4. Wait for the sap to drain. About 1 drop per second is a good pace.
  5. Collect the sap and store in a cool area.

Many of the tools needed for tree tapping can be found at your local hardware store. Or you may prefer to order them online.

How to Make Maple Syrup

Once you collect sap, it’s important to boil it off as soon as possible since sap can actually go rancid after 24 or 48 hours. Due to the large volumes of sap needed to make syrup, it may be easier to perform the initial steps outside over a fire pit. To transform sap in syrup, follow these directions:

  1. Strain your sap through cheesecloth to remove any impurities.
  2. Heat the sap to a strong boil so the water evaporates.
  3. Bring the last few gallons indoors to finish heating on the stove.
  4. Monitor the temperature with a candy thermometer—it should be ready at 219 F.
  5. Pour your maple syrup into sterilized jars and enjoy!

Does making homemade maple syrup sound like a fun project? Whether this labor-intensive endeavor is for you or not, you’ll want to keep all your trees (including maple trees) in good health.  Ping’s Tree Service offers all the tree maintenance services you need to keep your trees healthy and beautiful…though you’re on your own with the syrup making!


The History of the Christmas Tree

Christmas tree historyHoliday traditions vary from family to family, but the Christmas tree has been a long-standing symbol in American culture. Of course, that wasn’t always the case. Most of the first settlers would have thought it was strange to have an evergreen tree inside!  There are a lot of different stories surrounding this history, though a few things are for certain. For one, today it doesn’t matter what kind of tree you decorate in your home. Whether you’re loyal to live pine trees or you keep things easy with a decorative faux tree, the story of Christmas tree history is pretty interesting when you take a closer look.

Origins of the Tradition

Decorating homes with evergreen boughs has been customary since ancient times. From the early Romans using evergreens to Ancient Egyptians hanging green palms, the symbol has long held meaning for various cultures. Families would often celebrate the winter solstice with this type of greenery. Hanging boughs in the home and around entryways was meant to be an inspiring reminder that spring and summer would return once again.   Although wintertime greenery was popular in many areas around the world, the country with the biggest role in the tree as we know it today is Germany. Known as the Tannenbaum, the Christmas tree story for Germans typically dates back to the 16th century. It was during that time that Christian families started associating the decorative trees with the birth of Christ.

Coming to America

From Germany, the Christmas tree was eventually brought to America. Though it did take some time to catch on. Some accounts suggest that German settlers in Pennsylvania had a tree on display in the 1830s. Another story also dates to the mid-1830s. But in that version, the tree was set up by a Harvard professor in his Cambridge, Massachusetts home. Both sound likely enough since the tradition was common in Germany. The rest of the nation just needed a little more inspiration before adopting the tradition as their own.

Growing Acceptance

Fast forward to 1846. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are often credited with popularizing the Christmas tree to those outside of Germany. The spark was pretty straightforward. Because Albert was German, the royal family posed for a sketch in front of a decorated tree at Windsor Castle. That image was later published in the Illustrated London News. As the news spread, it helped popularize the tradition both in Britain and in the fashion-forward society in New England.

Current Popularity

As time progressed, another trend started to emerge. While Europeans preferred having a Christmas tree that was smaller (around 4 feet tall), Americans tended to like trees that were bigger. By the 1890s, it wasn’t unheard of to have trees that stretched all the way to the ceiling. It’s a decorating style that we still see today!  Size does vary according to personal taste from home to home, but the bottom line is that the Christmas tree enjoys near universal popularity.  Almost every home (and some businesses too) in America will have a Christmas tree this year.

As you tend to your Christmas tree inside, don’t forget to peak at your blue spruce, pine, and fir trees outside. If you start to have problems with your outdoor trees, be sure to give Ping’s Tree Service a call at 317-298-8482. Our crew would be happy to consult with you on any tree issues you might notice. With our residential tree care services, your trees can remain healthy and beautiful all year long—even through winter.

Five Good Children’s Books About Trees

children's books about treesGiving gifts to children at Christmas-time can be a source of joy for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even family friends.  If you are considering what to give the kids in your life, books always make good gifts.  Even before they can read, children love to have books read to them.  Kids will often latch onto favorite books and request that parents read them over and over.  We’ve compiled a list of some good children’s books about trees that kids will enjoy and learn from.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf  by Lois Ehlert

Kids love to learn about the world around them.  This book is perfect for teaching kids about trees and how they grow and change.  The simple words and brightly colored pages of Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf are appealing even to toddlers and small children.

Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall and Sheri Halpern

Books help kids make connections between themselves, the world, and other books.  Kids will gain a greater understanding of the nature they experience every day through this book.  The complex ecosystem of trees, plants, and animals will come to life as kids point and listen.  A recipe for apple pie is included in this book and offers an engaging activity to extend the opportunity to learn.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

Kids can’t help loving Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  And it’s as fun to read as it is to listen to.  The prominently featured coconut tree provides the background for an interesting way to review the uppercase and lowercase alphabet.  Don’t tell the little ones that this book is educational – its sing-song wording will have them chanting along and learning without even knowing it.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Books have the ability to teach more than just facts.  They can also teach listeners and readers about values.  The Giving Tree illustrates the value of sacrifice and selflessness is a very vivid way.  This book gives you an opportunity to shape the character of the kids in your life.

The Legend of the Three Trees by Catherine McCafferty

Making sense of the world is not always easy for adults, and it can be even more difficult for kids.  Great books can bring make the complexities of the world more easily understood.  The Legend of the Three Trees presents a vivid picture of God’s loving care for the world He created.  The message of this classic is timeless and comforting to kids growing up in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

Trees positively impact our lives in so many ways.  These books can help kids start to appreciate trees and all they provide for us.  We hope you have found this list helpful and that it gives you some good gift ideas for the kids in your life.  All of us at Ping’s wish you a Merry Christmas.

Reasons to be Thankful for Trees

thankful for treesLife in central Indiana is good.  There is so much to be thankful for every day.  However, in November we give our blessings more thought than usual.  As you consider all the reasons you have to be thankful, don’t forget about trees.  Though you may rarely give trees a thought, they really do make life better in a variety of ways.  Here are just a few reasons to be thankful for trees:

Trees Encourage Better Breathing

Breathing is so natural that we rarely consider how reliant we are on our ability to breath in and out.  Yet the reality is that without the ability to breath, we cannot live.  In order for breathing to continue, we must have breathable air.  Trees contribute to the air composition in a significant way.  Their natural processes actually use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, which people and animals need for life.  Trees (along with other plants) ensure a constant supply of oxygen for animal respiration.

Trees Reduce Pollution

Not only do trees provide the necessary constituents of our air, but they also reduce the pollutants that can affect air.  Odors, gases, and particles that pollute the air can be absorbed by the leaves and wood of a tree.  In this way, trees act as a natural air filter.  Trees also help to reduce water pollution by conducting water into the ground where it can be absorbed.  This reduces runoff and allows water to instead soak into the ground, where the soil filters out pollutants.

Trees Conserve Water and Energy

It’s terrible to waste the resources we have.  Trees help us to steward our natural resources, especially water and energy.  They help keep the nearby environment cooler by providing shade and by releasing water vapor into the air.  When trees are planted near homes and businesses, they diminish the amount of energy that is needed to cool these buildings.  Trees also reduce the rate of evaporation from the ground and keep more moisture available for lawns and other plants.

Trees Create a Functioning Habitat

In nature, organisms need each other.  Trees are no exception.  Many other plants and animals rely on the trees that they share an environment with.  Some animals nest in the branches of trees.  Others enjoy the shelter trees provide.  Some trees also provide food for animals.  The loss of trees from a habitat would have a destructive effect.

Trees Provide Resources

Not only do trees provide life-giving resources to surrounding animals, they also provide resources to people.  Wood from trees has long been a source of heating as well as a durable building material.  Trees also provide some of the best food that nature has to offer.  Fruit trees, such as apples and cherries, and nut trees, including walnuts, hickory nuts, and chestnuts, can easily be grown right here in central Indiana.

Trees Increase Property Values

The beauty of trees is obvious.  Whether the buds of early spring, the full green foliage of summer, or the brilliant colors of fall, trees attract our attention and please our eyes.  Trees bring beauty to any property and thereby raise the desirability and value of the property.  Since trees are relatively inexpensive to plant and maintain, they make good investments for any property, whether commercial or residential.

Trees Improve Relationships and Wellbeing

Imagine your neighborhood without trees.  If all the trees disappeared, would it make a difference in how you felt about yourself and your neighbors?  Research says that it would.  Trees provide many intangible benefits to individuals and communities.  They help bring a sense of unity by giving people comfortable places to gather together.  In addition, just enjoying the beauty of trees can comfort us and improve our overall outlook.

With all that trees contribute to the world, we should be thankful for them.  We should also take good care of them and ensure that they will endure for many years to come.  Ping’s can assist you in your tree care efforts.  Call us at 317-298-8482 to enlist our help with planting, fertilizing, trimming, or treating trees for pests or diseases.

Enjoy Fall Colors Right Here in Indianapolis

Autumn in central Indiana is a delightful season.  Football games, fall festivals, corn mazes, and pumpkin-flavored everything are a few highlights in the autumn season.  But trees are the undisputed star of autumn.  As the temperature drops and the days shorten, the leaves on the trees will begin their transformation.  In weeks, they turn from lush green to brilliant yellow, fiery orange, blazing red, bronzy brown, and even majestic purple!  At Ping’s, we love trees year-round, but we must admit there is a unique splendor to the woods in the fall.  If you’re looking for a good place to enjoy the fall color show in the Indianapolis area, here are a few ideas.

Take A Walk in the Park

While much of Indiana is flat, there are places to enjoy more interesting landscapes.  Often these interesting landscapes have been set aside as state, city, or nature parks.  Some popular parks which provide access to the changing leaves include Brown County State Park and Turkey Run.  However, if you’d like to stay a little closer to home, try an Indy park.  As an example, the trails at Holliday Park provide a great place to enjoy the colorful autumn display on terrain that is decidedly different from the flat ground that characterizes most of the Indianapolis area.  These trails are moderately easy to navigate and provide many opportunities to interact with nature.  A walk from Holliday Park’s nature center will take you past wooded slopes, ravines, ponds, and eventually the White River.  Holliday Park is just one of many local parks.  For a list of those within Indianapolis, see the Indy Parks website.

Head Back to School

Enjoying the beauty of nature may not be the most common reason for visiting a college campus, but it’s still a good one.  Many universities boast beautiful common areas for their students to enjoy.  One that is easily accessible to Indianapolis residents is the Butler campus.  The wooded areas around Hinkle Field House and Holcomb Observatory provide the perfect backdrop for a picnic with a view of the changing sights of the season.  Keep heading north from there and you’ll run into the Central Canal, where you can continue your scenic walk.  If you’re in the mood for a trip out of the city, the campuses of Indiana University and Notre Dame also provide popular autumn destinations.

Follow the Trail

A great way to take in the scenery of autumn is to do it while you walk or bike.  The mild fall weather makes exercise more enjoyable and the surroundings can be a wonderful distraction.  Trails throughout the city provide a place to experience nature while you get moving.  Fall Creek Trail is just one example of the trails available to the color-seeker.  Located on the east side of Indianapolis, this trail follows Fall Creek and loops around Fort Harrison.  Find nearby trails at this website.

I hope this blog has given you some ideas for good viewing of the changing leave, but perhaps the best place to enjoy the beauty of autumn is in your own backyard!  Ping’s can help you care for your trees and ensure that you can continue to enjoy them for years to come.  We offer expert advice and services, including tree trimming, insect and disease management, and fertilization.  If your trees are not thriving as they should be, our certified arborists can diagnose the problem and recommend necessary treatment.

Winter Safety Tips

winter safety tipsEvery year we know it’s coming.  Yet the first cold blast of winter is still a shock.  Did we really think that the beautiful days of autumn would not succumb to the icy days of winter?  We can’t expect that in central Indiana!  As we enter the cold and snowy season, we are also entering a season that brings with it some increased risks.  It is important to be aware of the potential danger that accompanies winter weather so that you can take steps to minimize your risk.

Risks to Your Health

The cold weather that inevitably arrives this time of year does more than just make us uncomfortable.  It actually takes a toll on our bodies.  When it is cold, it requires more energy just to maintain normal bodily functions.  This is a stress on the body, though in healthy individuals it is a minimal one.  Health is additionally strained by the assault on the immune system caused by increased infectious diseases.  For these reasons, winter sees a spike in illnesses as well as heart attacks.  To stay well during the winter months, get plenty of rest, stay away from sick individuals, and don’t exert yourself beyond your limits.

Risks at Home

Winter weather can be hazardous to your house as well as your body.  One of the most damaging elements of winter can be the freezing temperatures.  Severe cold can freeze water in your pipes or water that is blocked in your gutters or on your roof.  The expansion that occurs in the freezing process can cause pipes to burst or ice dams to form, resulting in household floods.  To avoid these damaging events, ensure pipes (especially those on an outside wall) stay adequately warm and remove any obstructions to water flow patterns on your exterior.

Another common danger during severe winter weather is fallen or uprooted trees.  Brisk winds can easily bring down branches or even trees.  Just a little bit of heavy ice or snow can also do a lot of damage and do it quickly.  Since weak or dead trees or branches are more susceptible to wind, snow, and ice, they should be taken care of before they fall on your valuable property, such as home or car.  Ping’s can trim these dangerous branches for you or take down dead trees.  They are also ready to clean up any tree emergencies that you experience.

Risks on the Road

Accumulating snow and icy temperatures affect more than just your home.  They also have a significant effect on the roads.  When winter storms blow in quickly, they can cause the roads to become very dangerous in a short span of time.  The best defense against these risks is to stay off the roads when possible.  But that is not always feasible.  When you have to travel in inclement weather, you should be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.  It is also important to have an emergency kit in your car.  The kit should include your phone and a charger, a blanket, hat and gloves, a flashlight, flares, a first-aid kit, and snacks.  While you might not always be able to predict when severe weather will hit, you can be prepared when it does.

Risks to Your Business

Finally, if you are a business owner, you have not only yourself, your family, and your home to protect, but also your business.  You must consider your employees and your commercial property.  Some of the same risks for homes also exist for commercial property.  Be on the look-out for vulnerable trees and branches as well as potential flooding disasters.  It is also important to avoid the potential liability of slick parking lots and sidewalks.  Failing to deal with snow and ice can result in serious accidents and injuries to customers or employees.  Ping’s is now offering reliable snow removal services. When the snow falls, Ping’s will take care of it for you so you don’t have to worry.

There’s no doubt about it – winter can be a dangerous time in central Indiana.  But if you are prepared and sensible, you can keep yourself safe.  Ping’s is happy to serve you at this time of the year and lessen your risks when we can.  Call us at 317-298-8482 for more information about our services or to make an appointment.

Veterans Day: A Brief History

Veterans DayWe are proud Americans.  We are proud to be citizens of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  But we would not be free, if not for the brave.  That’s why we honor our American veterans.  For our Ping’s family, it is especially important to celebrate this day.  Not only because our owner, Phil Ping, is a veteran, but also because of our veteran employees and their families.  We want to show them on this day, and every day, how very much we appreciate and respect their sacrifices for our freedom.  To truly understand the importance of Veterans Day, we’d like to take a look at where it all began.

The Origin of Veterans Day

Veterans Day was not always called Veterans Day.  From its first observation in 1919 until 1954, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day.  Its original purpose was to commemorate the events that had occurred one year earlier in 1918.  On November 11th, 1918, at 11:00 am, an armistice between the Allied forces and Germany went into effect.  Although World War I did not officially end until The Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919, this armistice was effectively the end of the fighting.

The Significance of the Day

The end of World War I was a momentous event in the life of Americans, and we can still feel its impact today.  Many young men had fought in World War I, and many had given their lives to protect our freedom.  As the first war that featured the devastation of modern warfare, World War I was a shock to the world.  Thus, it was called The Great War or The War to End All Wars.  These terms demonstrate the major impact that this war had on the people of our country.  The end of this horrific fighting was remembered through the observance of Armistice Day.

Continuing Remembrance of Veterans

There was a strong hope at the end of The Great War that it would be The War to End All Wars, but we know now that it was not to be.  World War II proved to be even more destructive.   The United States would be involved in still more wars after that.  In 1954, Armistice Day was re-named Veterans Day in order to honor soldiers who had served in all wars.  And now in 2016, we observe Veterans Day.   Many individuals and businesses use this day as an opportunity to show appreciation to those veterans who are still living for all they gave to protect our freedom.

All of us at Ping’s Tree Service are thankful for our veterans.  One way we express our appreciation is by making a concerted effort to hire veterans whenever possible.  We encourage you to celebrate Veterans Day by saying thank you to those who have served in the armed forces.  As a veteran-owned business ourselves, we hope that on this day you will enjoy your freedom while remembering those who fought for it.  THANK YOU TO ALL OUR VETERANS!

Ping’s Tree Service Is Growing Too!

satellite locationWhether it is a tree or a business, when something is healthy, it will grow!  Ping’s Tree Service has been serving Indianapolis and the surrounding communities for over 40 years.  We work hard to provide you with the best possible tree care services by investing in top-of-the-line equipment, setting high standards for our workmanship, and treating our customers right.  So it’s no surprise that our business is growing.  Today we are happy to report that our business is expanding and opening a satellite location.

Our additional office will be located in Fishers at State Road 37 and 131st Street.  For the rest of 2016 and the early part of 2017, we will be preparing to open our satellite location for business.  Right now, that location is scheduled to open in February of 2017.  We are excited about this opportunity to better serve our customers and about the possibilities this expansion will open for us.

Our original location on the northwest side of Indianapolis will continue to operate as usual and will remain the main office of our company.  With the growth and changes we are making, we anticipate this expansion will enable us to be even more responsive to customers closer to the Fishers area, especially in emergency situations.  We have quite a few customers in the communities of Fishers, Carmel, Geist, McCordsville, Cicero, and Noblesville.  We look forward to being right in the heart of this area, close by when you need us!

The anticipation of opening our new office in February is building, and we are eager to get things rolled out.  We will let you know more about our official opening as our plans unfold.  In the meantime, we will continue to meet all your tree care, trimming, pruning, fertilizing, and tree removal needs.  We’ll keep your trees healthy and growing…just like us!

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