Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

That's One Tasty Tree

Saturday, March 01, 2014

March is roaring in like a lion and, with Winter Storm Titan nipping at our heels, we headed to the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs this afternoon for a fun session put on by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

This is the class I tried to get into last year and it filled up the first day of registration.  But thanks for J.'s mom's fleet fingers (she was the first person to register!), we were able to get in this year.  Lots of families and kids came out to learn how to tap trees and turn tree sap into maple syrup, sugar, candy and other sweet treats.
We started off with a quick, very informative discussion of everything maple syrup.  Let me see if I can remember some of the points that you might find interesting. 
Did you know.....
...that American Indians were the first to collect and use maple syrup?  The legend is that it was discovered by Iroquoian Chief Woksis when he threw his tomahawk into a tree, causing sap to run from the wound and into a basket that his squaw then used to prepare their evening meal of venison.
...that maple syrup comes from maples trees - most notably the sugar maple, red maple or black maple?  The silver maple in our backyard really doesn't work well for this purpose, but did you know that you can make syrup from the sap of walnut trees?
...that the best month for sap production in Missouri is February?  That's due to the weather.  To get the sap out of the tree, you need cold nights below 32 degrees and days that are warmer than freezing.  In fact, the greater the differences in temps, the better the sap flows and the more sap you'll be likely to collect.
...that Laura Ingalls Wilder was fond of making a caramel-like candy from maple syrup by boiling it and pouring it onto snow banks to harden?

...that Mrs. Butterworth's syrup has NO real maple syrup in it? 

After the presentation, we were off to a taste-testing of popcorn coated with maple syrup and walnut syrup.  Since I didn't even know there was such a thing as walnut syrup, this was a great.  And the surprise is that it's MUCH tastier than maple syrup.  You can see a difference in the picture above - the walnut syrup is in the small jar on the left and the maple syrup is in the bottle on the right.  The walnut is much lighter in color and flavor.  We've got several HUGE walnut trees around us.  I wonder if the neighbors would notice if we hung buckets off of them?  *grin*
Then we were off to try our hand at drilling and inserting a tap into a log.  You need a drill, a hammer, and a spout.  See the hook on the spout (on the left below)?  That's for hanging the bucket to collect the sap.
With the weather below 32 degrees, the sap wasn't flowing at all, so we practiced tapping on a log.  While the kids were taking their turn at drilling, I was off snapping this picture of this interesting tree.  I wonder what kind of trauma caused this?

I love being in the woods and snow was starting to fall, so it was even more magical.  From the corner of my eye, I'm pretty sure I saw a wood fairy dart out of that tree as I turned away.
Back inside, I just had to take a picture of this little chipmunk before we left. 

He's an ex-chipmunk, but still tiny and adorable.  Having lived in Missouri all my life, I have never seen one of these little guys.  Ever!
I had some coupons for chicken feed so we hit Tractor Supply and picked up 300 pounds before heading home to batten down the hatches for the storm.  By that time, the Jeep's tires were starting to leave tracks in the snow that was starting to collect on the road.  Someone had a really bad day, because we saw 3 wrecks on the highway and some poor fellow Jeep owner had somehow gotten their Grand Cherokee perfectly balanced on the guard rail.  All 4 tires were off the road!  I wish I could have gotten a picture of that for you.
Oh, and before I go.....I want to give you this link in case you're interested in learning more about collecting sap and making syrup:  http://www.tapmytrees.com/preparation.html.
Til next time, stay warm my friends!  We're slated to hit -10 tonight.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know that about walnut trees, I have at least 6 big ones in my yard. They should give me something besides a mess in the fall! I will definitely be looking into this!


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