When I woke up Friday morning and looked out the window, I was startled to see snow on the roof of my neighbor’s house and in my yard. Even though it was the first day of spring, the temperatures are still dipping below freezing overnight. As much as I hate that, I now know that the cycle of warm and cold is vital to the collection of maple sap. Fortunately, the daytime weather was just about perfect for learning that tidbit and more last Saturday when we attended the 39th annual Maple Syrup Festival at Malabar Farm State Park.
Horse-drawn wagons were available to transport visitors to the sugar shack, but the line was long. We opted to make our own muddy hike up the hill to Pugh Cabin. Philip loved stepping in every single puddle as evidence by the back of his pants legs.
Along the way, the first maple trees we passed were set up using the old-fashioned method of collecting sap. Metal spiles were inserted into trunks and with metal buckets hanging below to collect the sap. Further along, a more modern method was in use. Plastic spiles connected to plastic tubing between trees and ran into a 50-gallon plastic storage tub at the end of the row.
Inside the sugar shack, we were offered samples and listened to a ranger talk about the process of transforming sap into syrup. This involves straining out sugar sand and evaporating off water. Due to the high percentage of water in the sap, it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
Peter and I shared a sample. Philip kept staring at the white paper cup I was holding. Finally, he could no longer resist and he took it from my hand. I don’t know if he tasted the syrup, but he did touch it.
He was equally resistant to the sample of maple fudge we picked up at the gift shop. He held the toothpick and kept touching the candy to his lips. Finally, he took the tiniest nibble before devouring the whole piece.
Overall, the festival was an enjoyable outing. If we go in the future, we’ll try to get there right when it opens. As it was, we had to park way, way, way out in an area I didn’t know existed. They offered a shuttle service to this parking area, and the wait wasn’t too long, but I think we could have avoided more crowds by being prompt. Still, one can’t complain about the price – free! We might also plan on having lunch: bean soup was on sale in Pugh Cabin with live music for entertainment. We skipped it this year, but will probably check it out in the future.