This weekend, the family embarked on a super fun adventure! We went with some friends from church to the Moose Hill Maple Sugar Festival!! We drove to the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and were able to see how maple syrup is made! When I first saw the little blurb advertising it in our bulletin, all I could think was:
I am a great lover of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read the books, watched the shows, used to pretend I was blind like Mary or married to Almanzo (NOT Alonzo! Thanks, Gretchen! You’re a “JEWEL.” ) like Laura. I used to read those books and wish I could spend Christmas with Laura and her family just once. Oh, to go to sleep to the sounds of Pa’s fiddle, all nestled close to Mary in a trundle bed. Well, this sounded like a little bit of the Prairie to me! If only I had a bonnet!
We all met at the church late Saturday morning. Before we left, we enjoyed a delicious brunch at the church, complete with plenty of maple-flavored treats. (Note PrincessDiva’s headband.)
When we arrived at our destination, we had a little bit of time before our tour began so we went exploring through the woods with our friends. The boys picked up the first of the eleventy thousand sticks that they would collect throughout the day. If I said, “Be careful with that stick; you’re going to stick someone in the eye with that” once, I said it eleventy thousand times. Once for each stick. At one point, my oldest turned around and said, “Mom, you really need to quit worrying so much.” Of course he said that whilst trying to balance his way across a 2 inch-diameter twig that was stretched over a 90-foot deep canyon holding a tree trunk in each hand. My measurements might be a little off, but if I hadn’t issued a “Be Careful” then, my mom license would surely have been revoked. I think I’ve included a picture here of Baby Boy one of the aforementioned sticks.
After the exploring came the guided tour. I really enjoyed it. Our guide was kid friendly and she gave enough information that I felt like we all learned something but not so many details that our ears were bleeding at the end. Unfortunately, I couldn’t concentrate on everything she said well enough to remember all the details (I had to count the Little People obsessively to make sure we hadn’t lost one, keep them from walking through the fires at the different stops, protect other tour participants’ eyes from the sticks, etc.) so if you really want all the specifics, you may have to do further research on your own. (You can re-read Chapter 7 in Little House in the Big Woods, for crying out loud.)
My favorite parts of the tour? The parts where we were given the chance to taste stuff. Any tour that hands out samples is a good tour in my book. The first thing they let us taste was maple sap. I thought it would be thicker, but it was really the consistency of water. And it tasted like barely sweetened water. Hmm..I wonder if that was really sap in the bottle or if it WAS just sugar water. No, I’m not going to let my mind go there. It was really sap, I just know it. This is a picture of the PrincessDiva getting a sap sample. She would want you to note her polished fingernails. Her friend Hannah gave her a manicure last week and she’s very proud of it.
On the next stop a French Canadian trapper named Jean Claude Pierre le Pepe du Luc au St. Marc (or something close, I couldn’t understand his “outrageous accent, you silly king”….shout out to all my fellow Python fans!) He was “waiting” for his Native American friends to come back. He told us the whole story about how they discovered you could boil tree sap and get sugar and syrup in the first place. I’m not telling you the whole story here though. I was glad it was a rather long story and that he didn’t mention his Native American friends again, because I could tell by the look on FirstBorn’s face, he was prepared to wait for those Indians to come back. He’s not usually distracted and has his father’s “one track mind” gene, so our Canadian friend better be grateful he didn’t have any ‘splainin’ to do. In the bottom picture I think he’s showing us how they cooked using hot rocks.
SIDE NOTE: Outrageous Accent Boy completed his costume with a fur jacket. He didn’t have it on when we saw him on the tour, but later that afternoon when we were at the gift shop, he walked by wearing it. (I guess his Native American friends never showed. Go figure.) I wish I’d taken a picture of it, but it looked something like this:
I think maybe he borrowed it from his mom. Anyway, as he was passing by, I whispered to The Husband, “He looks like a p-i-m-p daddy.” I don’t know why I don’t just give up the spelling. First of all, I usually spell the wrong word. I’ve also been known to spell secrets in front of other adults, forgetting they could actually spell, and insulting their intelligence in the process. Finally, my children, especially FirstBorn, know how to spell. So I spent the next thirty minutes trying to ignore my son who repeatedly and loudly kept asking, “So, what’s a pimp? Why did you say he looked like a pimp? What IS a pimp?”
On our next stop, Little Colonial Lady explained the drudgery of life in her time. She let the kids try on the yoke to get an idea of how heavy the buckets of sap could be. I’m surprised FirstBorn was able to stand under the weight, especially since picking his shoes up off the living room floor usually throws his back out for a week. I wish I’d made this picture a little bigger so that you could see the expression on his face a little better. I had just told him that we were having one of those specially made for his birthday next year and he was less than thrilled.
Oh, look! More tasting. This time we got to try little bits of maple sugar. Of course it was good! It’s S-U-G-A-R!
Our final stop was at The Sugar Shack. Well, The Sugar Shack is a little old place where we can get together. Sugar Shack, baby. Sugar Shack, bay-bee. Sugar Shack, that’s where it’s…Sorry. I couldn’t squelch my inner B-52 any longer. Actually the Sugar Shack is where the syrup magic happens. My favorite part, besides where we tasted the syrup, was when Mr. Sugar Shack (I didn’t catch his name) showed us how they grade the syrup. Basically he pours some syurp in a glass bottle and compare it to a little set of syrups he already has to see how the colors match. It’s very scientific, apparently.
I think the whole fam had a good time. The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful. It wasn’t too terribly cold and the sun was shining. Most of the snow had melted last week so it wasn’t too muddy. We picked the best day to visit. And on the way back home, to what did our wandering eyes did appear?
Five Guys Burgers and Fries!! If you have one of these near you and you’ve never eaten there, well then why in the world not? I ate the whole thing. On the way home, we had to stop and buy some ice cream at CVS because on the tour, Mr. Sugar Shack had mentioned that some people enjoy eating maple syrup on ice cream. The Husband and I are very suggestible, especially when it comes to food, so we knew before that day ended, we had to try it for ourselves. Never mind that we didn’t have any bread, milk, or cereal, we had to stop and get ice cream before we got home. I’m so glad we did because, good grief, Charlie Brown, that was good. Don’t bother squeezing some Aunt Jemima’s on your ice cream and expecting to get the same effect. It has to be the real deal….pure maple syrup. Which costs more per gallon than gas for your car, but it was so worth it. Besides you don’t need a gallon. It’s so much better than table syrup that you can get by with a smaller amount. Oh, my goodness. I’ve been maple syrup brainwashed. I may have become a maple syrup snob. I’ll try not to judge those of you who have Mrs. Butterworth standing in your pantry this very minute. I will truly try.
Don’t judge by the first picture of the FirstBorn. I think I caught him off guard.
I think this is the point where FirstBorn stole my phone and decided to do his own photojournalistic impression of the day. He started off conservatively with his first picture:
I could have done without the picture of me with my mouth full, but whatever.
And then he ended with a few self-portraits. Here’s an example:
So, to recap:
2 large bottles of maple syrup: $10 a piece
Geodes from the gift shop that have nothing at all to do with the whole maple syrup experience but were NECESSARY additions to the Little Peoples’ collection of stuff and were worth the price of not having to hear about them the whole way back home: $1 a piece
Dinner at Five Guys: around $30
The opportunity to break routine, do something we’d never done, embrace our inner Little House, and enjoy each other as a family: