Check Out the Tollgate Camp Video!

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2020 MS Farm Sprouts – Week #2 Wednesday PM

Farm Sprouts kicked off another week with ideal conditions for maple sugaring with average temperatures at or below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Here is a short and sweet explanation on this natural phenomenon. We’ve begun noting the temperatures and exposing Farm Sprouts to the importance of temperature to the season. We utilize a thermometer out in the sugar bush to note the outdoor temperature to predict sap flow and in the sugar shack to monitor the temperature of the sap boiling into syrup in our evaporator. Once the temperatures remain above freezing during both the day and night, the buds appear and the sap no longer carries the flavor profile that creates the tasty maple syrup we all love.

Farm Sprouts signed in this week by trailing rabbit tracks to a sugar maple tree. We wonder how trees help animals? So far we’ve identified animal homes (i.e. holes) at the base of several trees in the forest and discovered holes in trees made by insects. We’re very curious about who might make holes in trees. We’ve also found acorns on the ground near to our campfire area and imagine some animals might enjoy eating tree nuts. We encourage you to be on the lookout for other ways trees might help animals.

During our morning welcome and greetings, we (re)familiarized ourselves with maple sugaring tools, including voting for rubber mallet or drill, engaging as imaginative play as sugar workers in our cardboard sugar shack, and peering into our special “Discovery Box” to discuss and hold some of the tools we utilize for sugaring.

Out in the sugar bush, we checked in on the sugar shack, gathered around the campfire for a snack of roasted sweet potatoes and apples and mint tea, both with maple syrup as the secret ingredient, and freely played and explored together in the nearby forest. We also tapped our maple sugar tree, all having a chance to work a drill to make a hole in the tree, to pound in the adapter with our rubber mallet, and set up the tubing and bucket for collection. We were thrilled to see the sap begin to drip out of our fresh-drilled hole! We’re learning many ways trees can help us, from lighting fires to providing shelter and food to eat.

Before hiking back, we stopped to journal and the book, Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney. We also swung by the greenhouse to check on our pea shoots. We were amazed at how quickly they’ve grown!

Throughout our day, we thanked the sugar maple trees for all they offer us and for those who came before us on this land. We closed with our traditional Farm Sprouts circle of gratitude.

“If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come. If we never wonder, knowledge will never find us.”

“Before eating, always take time to thank the food.”

― Arapaho Proverbs

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2020 MS Farm Sprouts – Week #2 Wednesday AM

Farm Sprouts kicked off another week with ideal conditions for maple sugaring with average temperatures at or below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Here is a short and sweet explanation on this natural phenomenon. We’ve begun noting the temperatures and exposing Farm Sprouts to the importance of temperature to the season. We utilize a thermometer out in the sugar bush to note the outdoor temperature to predict sap flow and in the sugar shack to monitor the temperature of the sap boiling into syrup in our evaporator. Once the temperatures remain above freezing during both the day and night, the buds appear and the sap no longer carries the flavor profile that creates the tasty maple syrup we all love.

Farm Sprouts signed in this week by trailing rabbit tracks to a sugar maple tree. We wonder how trees help animals? So far we’ve identified animal homes (i.e. holes) at the base of several trees in the forest and discovered holes in trees made by insects. We’re very curious about who might make holes in trees. We’ve also found acorns on the ground near to our campfire area and imagine some animals might enjoy eating tree nuts. We encourage you to be on the lookout for other ways trees might help animals.

During our morning welcome and greetings, we (re)familiarized ourselves with maple sugaring tools, including voting for rubber mallet or drill, engaging as imaginative play as sugar workers in our cardboard sugar shack, and peering into our special “Discovery Box” to discuss and hold some of the tools we utilize for sugaring.

Out in the sugar bush, we checked in on the sugar shack, gathered around the campfire for a snack of roasted sweet potatoes and apples and mint tea, both with maple syrup as the secret ingredient, and freely played and explored together in the nearby forest. We also tapped our maple sugar tree, all having a chance to work a drill to make a hole in the tree, to pound in the adapter with our rubber mallet, and set up the tubing and bucket for collection. We were thrilled to see the sap begin to drip out of our fresh-drilled hole! We’re learning many ways trees can help us, from lighting fires to providing shelter and food to eat.

Throughout our day, we thanked the sugar maple trees for all they offer us and for those who came before us on this land. We closed with our traditional Farm Sprouts circle of gratitude.

“If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come. If we never wonder, knowledge will never find us.”

“Before eating, always take time to thank the food.”

― Arapaho Proverbs

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2020 MS Farm Sprouts – Week #1 Wednesday PM

We’re kicking off Farm Sprouts one week late on account of a snowstorm, meaning the full month of March is now dedicated to the maple sugaring season! What began years ago with a handful of dedicated volunteers and a makeshift shack that has now become a full maple sugaring operation with a whole crew of amazing volunteers, education programs, a public event, and gallons of fresh maple syrup. Farm Sprouts were welcomed as a part of this sweet community and will be contributing in countless ways, including doing the very authentic work of sap collection, the very task everyone is thinking about at the farm this time of year!

Upon arrival, Farm Sprouts signed in and voted for beech or maple trees. Tree identification is an important and valuable skill, especially as sugar workers. Today we worked to develop our science and engineering practices in a number of ways, by sharing our previous experiences either with maple sugaring or in the forest, making observations to notice patterns, and by collecting and recording those observations. Each week, we will be growing in our understanding of life’s cycles and the earth’s systems, including local weather conditions and patterns over time. We’ll note the temperature, conditions, and whether or not the sap is flowing. We wonder what makes the sap flow? How do we tap a sugar maple tree? So that we don’t harm it? Why do we only collect sap in the spring to make maple syrup? So many questions to investigate! Outdoor learning and engaging in really meaningful, authentic work can provide opportunities for BIG learning! Our big question for the season is: How does sugar maple sap become maple syrup for pancakes? During our last week, we’ll celebrate our hard work and effort (and all the fun we had together) with a much anticipated pancake feast with fresh maple syrup.

Compared to last week, we definitely felt a shift in the weather as Michiganders. Farm Sprouts noted several signs of spring, including bird songs, melting snow, warmer temperatures, and sprouts! In the sugar bush, we toured the sugar shack, enjoyed a popcorn and maple syrup snack (a Farm Sprouts tradition), identified sugar maple and beech trees (the two dominant species in our Tollgate forest), chose a sugar maple to tap, and explored the forest. Inside the shack, we enjoyed the steamy feel of the shack, the sweet smells, and amazing science and engineering of the evaporator at work, boiling the clear sap from the trees into the sticky, amber-colored syrup we love so much. We got to know the trees with all of our bodies, giving them hugs and cheek rubs to get to know the feel of the bark. We could feel the warmth from the sun on the trees and located beech and maple leaves at our feet.

On our journey to and from the sugar bush and into the barns, we visited our animals, including our lambs, and stopped by our greenhouse, where our Sustainable Agriculture team has already begun work in preparation for the growing season and their incredible C.S.A. program. Onions are sprouting and Ms. Darby had kindly started us some pea shoots for our snack on our third week. We love our collaboration with our farmers and that the farm is already coming to life in early March!

We closed with our Farm Sprouts goodbye. We look forward to seeing you all on the farm next week!

“There is always an adventure waiting in the woods.” – Katelyn S. Bolds

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2020 MS Farm Sprouts – Week #1 Wednesday AM

We’re kicking off Farm Sprouts one week late on account of a snowstorm, meaning the full month of March is now dedicated to the maple sugaring season! What began years ago with a handful of dedicated volunteers and a makeshift shack that has now become a full maple sugaring operation with a whole crew of amazing volunteers, education programs, a public event, and gallons of fresh maple syrup. Farm Sprouts were welcomed as a part of this sweet community and will be contributing in countless ways, including doing the very authentic work of sap collection, the very task everyone is thinking about at the farm this time of year!

Upon arrival, Farm Sprouts signed in and voted for beech or maple trees. and got to work painting our classroom sugar shack. Tree identification is an important and valuable skill, especially as sugar workers. Today we worked to develop our science and engineering practices in a number of ways, by sharing our previous experiences either with maple sugaring or in the forest, making observations to notice patterns, and by collecting and recording those observations. Each week, we will be growing in our understanding of life’s cycles and the earth’s systems, including local weather conditions and patterns over time. We’ll note the temperature, conditions, and whether or not the sap is flowing. We wonder what makes the sap flow? How do we tap a sugar maple tree? So that we don’t harm it? Why do we only collect sap in the spring to make maple syrup? So many questions to investigate! Outdoor learning and engaging in really meaningful, authentic work can provide opportunities for BIG learning! Our big question for the season is: How does sugar maple sap become maple syrup for pancakes? During our last week, we’ll celebrate our hard work and effort (and all the fun we had together) with a much anticipated pancake feast with fresh maple syrup.

Compared to last week, we definitely felt a shift in the weather as Michiganders. Farm Sprouts noted several signs of spring, including bird songs, melting snow, warmer temperatures, and sprouts! In the sugar bush, we toured the sugar shack, enjoyed a popcorn and maple syrup snack (a Farm Sprouts tradition), identified sugar maple and beech trees (the two dominant species in our Tollgate forest), chose a sugar maple to tap, and explored the forest. Inside the shack, we enjoyed the steamy feel of the shack, the sweet smells, and amazing science and engineering of the evaporator at work, boiling the clear sap from the trees into the sticky, amber-colored syrup we love so much. We got to know the trees with all of our bodies, giving them hugs and cheek rubs to get to know the feel of the bark. We could feel the warmth from the sun on the trees and located beech and maple leaves at our feet.

On our return to the farm, we visited our lambs and stopped by our greenhouse, where our Sustainable Agriculture team has already begun work in preparation for the growing season and their incredible C.S.A. program. Onions are sprouting and Ms. Darby had kindly started us some pea shoots for our snack on our third week. We love our collaboration with our farmers and that the farm is already coming to life in early March!

We closed with our Farm Sprouts goodbye. We look forward to seeing you all on the farm next week!

“There is always an adventure waiting in the woods.” – Katelyn S. Bolds

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Winter Farm Camp: Day 2

The day began with campers zooming into Tollgate with their eyes filled with excitement and wonder for what new adventures day two of winter camp would bring! The blue pepper group started our morning on a high note leading our flag ceremony, where campers worked together to post and raise the flag, as well as recite the pledge of allegiance and the 4-H pledge.

With the fresh snow that the previous night had gifted us, campers were excited to explore the farm using winter recreational equipment such as, cross country skis and snow shoes.

One of the big questions we asked our campers during winter farm camp was “How do animals cope with the cold?”. We talked about how some animals like bears or snakes hibernate in dens or colonies, while some animals like birds and monarchs migrate to warmer areas. Last, we talked about how some animals we still see in the winter are able to “tough it out” through adaptation. Campers were able explore the idea of adaptation when participating in a fun science experiment learning about how Wood Frogs adapt in freezing temperatures so that they don’t freeze and die.

Campers created their own jello “frogs” and designed burrows in the forest to keep their frogs from fully freezing. Campers got creative designing their shelters and weren’t too upset when many of the “frogs” ended freezing. Frozen frogs = bonus snack for them to enjoy!

The campers hunger was curbed during Garden Kitchen time when they got to enjoy a berry banana smoothie paired with a graham cracker for dipping. The smoothie was only the first of the four kitchen recipes the campers would be helping prepare this morning. In addition to the smoothie, campers helped bake corn bread, turned heavy whipping cream into butter by shaking a mason jar, and prepared veggies for our afternoon snack: vegetable stew.

Similar to yesterday, animal chores were a obvious highlight for many of the campers. And since chickens seem to be the #1 pick, the star of the show, and camp highlight, both groups were able to visit the coop for the final day of camp.

To conclude day two of camp both “pepper” groups came together to build a fire and cook vegetable stew. While the stew was cooking campers explored the forest, played in the snow, built shelters in the woods, and investigated the question of “How do plants and animals cope with the cold?”

Campers gathered around the fire to share a bowl of soup they made with their “old” and “new” friends. We reflected together about the highlights and challenges we faced during the past 2 days of camp. The soup may be gone and the 2020 winter camp may be over but the memories, friendships, and experiences made by the campers and staff will last a life time!

Thank you for a successful and fun 2020 Wild Winter Camp!

To view all of the 2020 Winter Camp photos please visit our google photo album.

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