Our second week brought some warm, spring-like weather for the last day in February. Farm Sprouts signed in by making some sugar maple tree bark rubbings on their journals and voted for blueberries or cranberries to help us plan for our sugarbush snack next week. We continued with working on our sugarbush mural, which had started last week with blue watercolor paint and started working on design plans for our own imaginative play sugar shack built out of cardboard boxes. Farm Sprouts came up with some really inventive design ideas. We’ll be gathering the supplies and materials they need to implement their plans so we can move on to the construction phase next week.
Also as a part of our welcome activities, Farm Sprouts harvested the pea shoots grown through our Sustainable Agriculture Program, which includes a C.S.A. We had checked on our flats of pea shoots in the greenhouse last week and noted they were just beginning to sprout. This week they had transformed into lush greens that were ready for us to taste! Farm Sprouts enjoyed the authentic task of harvesting shoots as they worked on their fine motor skills through the use of scissors. We boiled pasta and made our very own pea shoot pesto with extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, sea salt, and the shoots. A dash of lemon is a nice addition as well! We kept the nuts out of the recipe, but you could certainly include them if your family enjoys them and you wanted to try your hand at your own homemade version.
Once outside, we hiked our way to the sugarbush, stopping to visit our animals on the way. We greeted our animals in Spanish and English, including: cows (las vacas), sheep (las ovejas), goats (las cabras), horses (los caballos), and hens (las gallinas).
In the sugarbush, we stumbled on Mr. Wayne, one of our volunteers. He was wrapping up a day spent repairing tubing from squirrel damage. The squirrels like to munch the lines, creating holes that allow for the sap to leak. He uses a special tool, called a glomper, to cut out a section of line and insert a new section with a connector. He gave Ms. Brooke a refresher lesson on how to use this nifty tool.
Farm Sprouts then spotted a trail, which we followed and identified as a deer trail from the tracks. Not long down the trail, a Farm Sprout discovered a spike horn! Mr. Wayne headed down the trail as well to repair more tubing. Some Farm Sprouts joined in to observe and investigate. Others collected leaves and the rest tromped through a stretch of mud.
We stopped on the bridge to enjoy our sugarbush snack. Once we had nourished our bodies, we were feeling energized and ready to tap a sugar maple tree. We worked together to identify a maple, noting the difference between beech and sugar maple trees. Farm Sprouts took turns and worked together to drill, tap, and enjoy the thrill in seeing sap flow into their bucket! Next week we’ll check on our buckets. We’ve talked with Farm Sprouts about how they are an important part of our farm community this season as they contribute to the work involved on the farm. It’s an incredible experience to be able to work and learn alongside our volunteers to harvest Michigan’s first agricultural product of the year.
We enjoyed some time for journaling and self-guided play and discovery in the forest and everyone had a turn using the drill before returning to the sugar shack. We had the opportunity to taste sap that was partially boiled and on its way to become maple syrup. You can imagine that everyone wanted a second (or third) refill!
Farm Sprouts met one of the new lambs born last as we stopped near to the animal barn on the way back to say our goodbyes. We thought about the characteristics of mammals (warm-blooded, live birth, drinks milk from his mom) and the lamb’s body covering.
We’ll continue to work with real tools, accomplish authentic tasks, build new friendships, interact with our animals, and learn through play and discovery as we build our understandings of how sap becomes maple syrup! See you all next week!