We awoke to a winter wonderland for our third week of maple sugaring season! The farm was a beautiful sight and a complete contrast to the nearly 60 degree weather we had the week prior. Our weather observations are leading us to notice patterns, such as freezing temperatures at night and above freezing temperatures during the day which cause the sap to flow! Late-winter Michigan weather is certainly variable! Once the temperatures remain above freezing and the buds appear, the flow will be reduced and the composition of the sap will change, causing a more bitter taste that won’t produce the tasty, sweet maple syrup we enjoy on pancakes. Farm Sprouts are curious about sap and have begun to wonder about how and why trees make sap, questions and thoughts spurred by their own curiosity. Wow! These are the roots of the study of tree physiology. Big thinking for young minds!
Farm Sprouts signed in by making letters from their names and exploring maple playdough. It even smelled like maple syrup thanks to the addition of maple extract! There are four grades of maple syrup based on color, clarity, density, and flavor. Our dough also came in four shades.
We continued to work on our Sugar Shack and included some maple sugaring tools and materials, including wood, buckets, drills, tubing, adapters, and spiles. Farm Sprouts loved playing as sugar makers! We also prepared bread dough for our snack and gathering to think like scientists about the maple sugaring process.
Before heading out, we stepped into the workshop to observe the bottling process. Mr. Roy and Mr. Joe answered our questions and explained this important, behind-the-scenes final phase of the process, which most visitors don’t have any opportunity to observe! Farm Sprouts asked some great questions, like “What is a filter?” and “Why does it (the syrup) have to be hot?” Many thanks to our operations for all they do to support us and for allowing us this very special glimpse to help us understand how sugar maple sap becomes maple syrup we can enjoy on our pancakes!
We trekked out to the sugarbush to play, explore, and prepare a snack over the campfire. On the way, we greeted our animals, made snowballs and snow angels, and enjoyed the beauty of the fresh fallen snow. Around the fire, we discussed fire safety and shared ideas about how to play with and use sticks safely. We roasted “Bread on a Stick,” made with our own maple syrup. Many thanks to Shelburne Farms for inspiring our tasty campfire snack! We stopped in the sugar shack to inspect the evaporator. We checked on the tree we had tapped, noting a fair amount of sap in our bucket. We explored all the ways trees help us, providing us with a place to rest, a place to gather, wood for fires, sticks for roasting and building, and more. Some of us spotted four wild turkeys!
Next week we’ll do just that… enjoy making and eating pancakes together from scratch! Surely we’ll all feel a little greater sense of appreciation for all that is involved in the process.
“Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.” – Alice Waters