At this time of year, all around New England, thousands of these are being inserted into sugar maple trees, often using a drill bit that is specially designed for the job. The sap then runs through the spiles into buckets (not so much these days) or tubing (what most commercial operations use in the 21st century).

Since late February, Harry Hartford and his wife, Debi, of Thurston and Peters Sugar House in West Newfield have been busy removing last year’s spiles and inserting brand new ones on a farm that has been in Harry Hartford’s family since 1881. In order to place the spiles, he, his wife and an employee blaze trails by snowmobile, then strap on snowshoes to reach individual trees, some in snow as deep as 5 feet.

“Yesterday was real sticky, so the snow was clumping on the snowshoes,” he said last week, which made a long job even longer.

Hartford’s grandparents used spiles made of galvanized zinc or tin. Today, the ones he and his wife use are made of plastic polycarbonate or stainless steel; the latter cost a lot more, but they can be reused.

The sap that passes through those spiles on the Thurston and Peters farm ultimately produces some 500 gallons of maple syrup each year. And did we mention that later this month, Debi Hartford will be making maple soft-serve ice cream for Maine Maple Sunday?