Today we took the boys to the Maple Sugar Festival. This is one of their favorite festivals to go to. They enjoy riding the tractor-pulled wagon, seeing the animals and emptying buckets of sap. When we went to this festival last year we were all bundled up in our winter coats, hats, boots, mittens and scarves and we were knee-deep in snow. This year it was 62 degrees outside and we were all in tennis shoes and spring jackets!
We started out the morning with the pancake breakfast that they have at the festival. The food was so good and the syrup was made right there. They only gave you a small amount but it was pure maple syrup and we could hardly believe how sweet it was! That little bit of syrup was more than enough for our pancakes.
The boys were quite excited to get over to the maple sugaring shack and get started. When we arrived there we still had a few minutes or so before the sap colleting began so we stopped by the outdoor fire where they were cooking some of the maple syrup. They were handing out samples of the sap that you could try so that you could see how it tastes before it became maple syrup. None of us liked it that much.
Inside they have a big furnace-like oven where they also cook the maple syrup. They are constantly feeding wood into this furnace. They have a big room that is just loaded with wood.
We also had a maple stir while we were waiting for the sap collecting to begin. If you have never had a maple stir you seriously have to try one. They are so good and sweet. You receive fresh hot maple syrup in a small bowl and are also given a stick (like a craft stick or tongue depresser stick) and you just stir and stir and stir the syrup. In a minute or two it starts to thicken up and it turns into maple sugar candy. The key to doing this, I believe, is that you need to do it while the syrup is still hot. Once it turns into candy it is usually still warm and it is so good!
Once the horses were hitched up to the little sleigh containing the barrel for the sap we all went off into the woods. We went to the trees and took off the sap buckets and dumped the sap into the barrel and then we returned the buckets to the trees and covered them. The boys were just beside themselves with excitement. They were each able to do several buckets of sap. The workers are real good with the kids and they let them climb onto the sleigh so that they can actually reach the barrel and pour in the sap. They didn’t rush the kids at all. We were told that since the weather was so warm that the trees were producing a lot of sap. When we were done we treated ourselves to another maple stir!
One thing that I noticed while we were emptying the sap buckets was that there were a number of trees that looked to be sectioned off with a rope. When we were closer to the trees we saw that it was actually tubing. Instead of having a tap in those trees they had tubes connected to the trees and then those tubes were connected to a larger tube which, I’m assuming, emptied the sap somewhere. It was really neat to see the modern technology right along side of the trees with the sap buckets attached to them.
While we were there we also went into the arena area where they keep the animals in the winter months. There were so many baby animals to see. When we were there for Discovery Days last month there was a mama pig who was pregnant and today we were able to see all of the little pink piglets that had been born. They were really cute.
There were also a lot of baby lambs that had been born in the last month or two. We saw some that were only a few days old while others we were able to see how much they had grown since we saw them last month. They just look so cute and cuddly that you wish that you could just pick them up and cuddle with them.
Of course the boys also saw the barn cat that lives in the barn by the horses. It has got to be one of the biggest cats that I have ever seen. She is super friendly and always lets all of the kids pet her. You can find her in the barn or on the bleachers in the arena.
By the end of the day we were all full of sugar and very tuckered out. We had the windows in the car opened for a little while because the car was so warm from the sun. The boys enjoyed that since we haven’t been able to ride with the windows open since last summer. We had to take the boys’ shoes and socks off in the car because they were pretty muddy after collecting the sap so Matthew decided to air out his little foot by the open window.
Matthew and I both fell asleep on the way home but then the boys ended up being pretty wound up after we were home. We all had a very enjoyable day today. I love to create these kinds of family memories with Tom and the boys!