Lead Environmental Educator
Winter is ending and Spring is near, it’s maple sugaring time, the best time of the year!
It has been an amazing winter season for children’s and community programs, and a big part of all the success and fun is due to the ideal maple sugaring weather we’ve had! With warmer days and colder nights, the sap has been steadily flowing from the maple trees, and our programs have been more involved in the maple sugaring process than ever before.
For the past few years our site manager, Keith Riley, has been doing a really great job with all the maple sugaring here. It is a lot of work to collect sap from the trees, carry it all the way to the sugar shack, and keep a fire going all day so that the sap can boil into syrup. And all that work gives us only a little bit of syrup (it takes 40 gallons of sap to make only 1 of syrup!).
With this being the second full-winter season for the Natureyear and Kids Unplugged programs, we are excited to be helping more with this magical process, and have made it a part of our consistent routines and activities!
Natureyear groups have added sap collecting to their morning chores, hiking to the trees and carrying the heavy sap buckets to the sugar shack for boiling. Meanwhile, Kids Unplugged groups have been gathering kindling for the evaporator (where the sap is boiled in the sugar shack), so it is easy to start the sugar shack fires early in the mornings. Both groups have been coming up with fun ways to experiment with the process, testing the sugar content of the tree sap versus the syrup, measuring and mapping the trees, and timing the drips from the trees (onto our tongues of course). The activities the kids have created themselves are innovative and interesting, and have taught us a lot about the process. Although we are ending our season soon, we continue to find ways to write, draw, and enjoy all that the maple trees give us this time of year.
“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”.
If ever a cliche statement rings true, it would be “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. Even though we may not make too much syrup, we love tromping around in the snow to collect the sap, filtering the syrup through our strainers, and watching the sap bubble, foam, and turn into the brown, gooey syrup we love so much. It’s not easy collecting the sap, especially with all the puffy layers we wear this time of year, but we feel the satisfaction of our hard work as we watch the warm steam rise from the evaporator, and smell the sweet scent of the syrup fill the cozy sugar shack air. What fun it has been to watch our groups enjoy this special experience.
As our full year groups do their part to help with the process, our visiting groups have enjoyed getting a taste (literally) of what maple sugaring really is about as well. Our environmental education team has doubled the amount of maple sugaring fieldtrips we teach this year, with almost twenty-five trips being squeezed into the short five week maple syrup season. Groups of all ages are amazed to learn how maple syrup is made, and are happy to visit our trees, let sap drip right onto their tongues, pick up and use maple sugaring tools, and experience our sugar shack. The high school guidance groups have been visiting the sugar shack as well, taking time out of the busy high school days to see what is happening right here on our site. We have felt so happy to spread the joys of syruping to others, and feel grateful that we have this special few weeks of syruping to push us through the last weeks of this long winter.
And the fun isn’t stopping yet! We are so in love with this season, and are looking forward to showing, (and tasting!) our love for maple syrup at our annual Maple Syrup Festival on Saturday, March 24th from 10-1pm! See our tapped trees, taste raw sap from the trees, sample maple syrup, visit our sugar shack, and enjoy our famous sap dogs (meat or vegetarian) over our campfire in the woods. We can’t wait to share the fun of maple syruping with you then.