Mar 9, 2010

Down at the Sugar Shack (sugar shack baaay-bee)

I took a little educational adventure this weekend to the Sugar Shack, and that B-52s song instantly stuck in my head. I hope it's stuck in your head now, too... like a fly in maple syrup. Ha!  

My friend [D] and I took her two kiddos down to Malabar Farm to the opening weekend of the Maple Syrup Festival. There, according to the brochure, we went on "a self-guided tour of the sugar camp and sugarhouse that revealed the evolution of sugaring equipment and how maple sap is transformed into maple syrup." That's three direct references to sugar in one sentance. You know this was going to be an exciting day.

Here are a few things we did learn on our day at Malabar Farm:

Lesson No. 1: Check the white balance settings on your camera before shooting. Don't assume you just can't see the screen very well in the sunlight when the color is off. Luckily, some black and white editing turned out well on these to cover up the blotched photography. Thank you, Photoshop.

Lesson No. 2: A LOT of people were excited about the Maple Syrup Festival. We were imagining a handful of folks peacefully meandering through the woods at this little farm (which also happens to be a state park). Instead, there was this:
Yikes! There were lines, crowds and a lot of mud. This was the third day in a row that the sun graced us with an appearance. People were coming out of the woodwork in a mass exodus from the sad, gray Ohio winter. You could practically hear the sighs of relief as people said goodbye to their seasonal depression.

This pretty little view was enough to shed some of my winter misery:

Lesson No. 3: Motherhood is complicated and not for the weak of heart -- this probably is not a shock to anyone else. However, being the baby of my family did not leave me with a natural understanding of what it takes to have another human being dependant on me for survival.

[D]'s supermom-ing skills never cease to amaze me. She strapped her 30 pound, year-old son, little-L, into what looked like mountain hiking apparatus and carried him on her back all day. little-L was very pleased with this arrangement.

Lesson No. 4: Native Americans were the first to discover how to harvest maple sap. They slashed grooves in the trees and collected the sap in hollowed out logs. Then super hot "cooking stones" were dropped into the sap to crystalize it and make a form of hard candy. This was likely the only sweet-tasting substance in the Native American's diets.
[D]'s older son, c-man, thought the Indians were cool, too. This one gave him a high-five, but as we walked away, he whispered something to me about making sure those Indians didn't "get us" later. And he was watching the snow for "bad guy tracks." He cracks me up.
Doesn't [D] have the cutest little fellas? This is c-man, investigating the sap buckets:

Then in colonial times, they figured out how to make the sap into sugar. How this guy represented colonial times, I don't know. But it was the one photo I salvaged from the scary blue tints, and I just loved the colors of the trees around him.

Lesson No. 5: Cotton candy is really cotton-y. That's one I learned from c-man. After watching everyone else eating maple cotton candy, he was really excited to get some of his own. He waited patiently as we toured the Sugar Shack, which showed modern maple processing, then waited in a line to buy the maple sugary goodness. We finally got the cotton candy, and he was just dying to dig into it. [D] opened it outside the store, and his long wait was finally over.

He took one bite and handed it back to [D]. "This candy is too cotton-y. I don't like it at all." End of story.

Lesson No. 6: Every day is a parade when you are riding in a horse-drawn wagon. I've ridden horses all my life and the novelty of it should have really worn off by now. But it's still fun. This big fella was our transportation from the Sugar Shack back to the parking area. I liked him.  

Lesson No. 7: It doesn't matter how old you are, a sugar high is still always followed by a massive crash. The boys were sound asleep about two seconds after leaving Malabar Farm. I stayed awake long enough to devour my maple-chocolate coconut haystacks and some pure maple candy, then we stopped for ice cream.

I lasted through one episode of the Sopranos and crashed, happily tucked in bed before 8 p.m. That makes for one great day at the Sugar Shack (sugar shack, baaayy-beee).   


  1. Fantastic commentary about a visit to Malabar Farms Maple Sugar festival. They always do a great job of showing the different ways Maple Syrup has been harvested and the progress through the years. Love the photos too! Great job Miss L

  2. I'm using your photos as examples for our photo workshop. Love them.