2019 MS Farm Sprouts – Week #4 Wednesday PM

Spring has arrived and yet, the sap is still flowing! We’re closing in on having one of our best year’s yet in terms of maple syrup production! With these extended freezing nights and warm days, the sap has been flowing steadily and the sugar shack has been buzzing with activity. It’s amazing to think Farm Sprouts were able to contribute to the process! Not only did they help haul buckets, but they also provided our volunteers with some very important interaction. The heart of what the volunteers do lies in knowing they are passing on a tradition that is as old as time to support the development of the future stewards of our land. We’ve been a part of a beautiful example of a powerful system of education, which includes a love of land, place, and learning which results in the contribution to something that is bigger than us all.

Farm Sprouts signed in by sharing a memory from the season and voting for robin or worm, signs of spring! We are experimenting with ways we can involve Farm Sprouts in the physical creation of our seasonal Wonder Wall, so we look forward to testing out some different strategies during the spring season! It naturally becomes a stopping place for children, especially as we near the end of the season. They also take pride in sharing at the end of the season. Since the maple sugaring season is so short, we do not plan a Celebration of Learning, but do plan on joining us for such a celebration the last day of the spring season! We enjoy the opportunity to interact with our families greatly! Especially since our pick up and drop off times are so very busy!

We had much to do in the classroom area on the last day. Farm Sprouts placed finishing touches on our Sugar Shack and worked to tap a tree, collect sap, add wood to the firebox, and boil down sap into syrup. They made butter, engaged in an ice melting experiment, as the snow has melted away to make way for decomposing leaves and mud. Play dough was available in shades of maple syrup to match the USDA grading system: light, amber, dark, and very dark. Mr. Roy and Mr. Norb were busy bottling maple syrup in the workshop and they accommodated our schedule so Farm Sprouts could have a peak and ask questions about this very important and final step of the process.

Farm Sprouts officially engaged with and supported each step of the maple sugaring process! It was time to celebrate, which meant pancakes! Farm Sprouts helped to mix the batter, add the eggs collected from our chicken coop, to gobble them up with freshly-made butter and maple syrup they had helped produce! We read the story, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola, now a program tradition. The mix for our pancakes came from Sunflour Bakehaus in Farmington Hills. Jeff Pavlik, the owner, along with his wife, donates his time and energy to support our Maple Tapping and Pancake Feast and Pumpkinfest events each year with rich, engaging historical reenactments for the community. We are so very grateful for all Jeff offers to MSU Tollgate Farm and as a side benefit, his baked goods and other products are delicious! Jeff sourced several of the ingredients in the pancake mix from local Michigan farmers. Hooray for supporting local community businesses and farmers!

It was time to head outside! We visited the Sugar Bush to haul sap and visit Stick A-mazing world one last time this season! We then made our way to the animal barn. We stopped to visit our chickens and enjoyed the special opportunity to interact with our brand new lambs. We observed their funny movements, fuzzy faces, and interactions with their mothers. We giggled at our animals, from balancing chickens hiding eggs behind straw bales to lambs climbing their mom as if they were mountain climbers. Farm Sprouts are developing an understanding of what it means to be a mammal!

Many thanks to Garrett Owen for providing us with the petunias. We hope your Farm Sprouts are enjoying caring for them and that if they are not yet blooming, they soon share do so for you! May they remind you of the farm and springtime adventures coming soon!

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