Dog Mountain–St. Johnsbury, VT


Remember when we talked about Dogtown, the local place that sounds like a dog park, but isn’t really a dog park–the name has historical origins–but so many dog lovers are drawn in by the name that in some ways it might as well be?

This shows part of the gorgeous mountaintop view.  The view of Moxie isn't so bad, either ;)

This shows part of the gorgeous mountaintop view. The view of Moxie isn’t so bad, either ūüėČ

Well, Dog Mountain, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, has an equally convoluted description. ¬†It DOES define itself as a dog park. ¬†But it has so much more to offer, from miles of hiking trails, to an art gallery and shop, a chapel, and multiple local festivals–so much so that dozens of non-dog owners visit every year as well, and everyone is equally welcome.


Folk artist Stephen Huneck¬†(raised in Sudbury, MA) and his wife Gwen were inspired to open the place on their Vermont property in the mid-90s. ¬†The chapel was an integral part of the original idea. ¬†Everyone is welcome to leave a memorial note for their pets, and it is wallpapered in them. ¬†Even the most stoic will find it difficult to leave with dry eyes. ¬†Sadly, the memorial has wider implications now, because after a lifetime struggle with physical and mental illness, Huneck took his own life in 2010 and his wife later followed. ¬†But they’ve left a beautiful legacy, and and supporters claim to want to keep it open and free, and¬†donations¬†(either direct or through the online store) and volunteers are always welcome.

Up the hill...

Up the hill…

...and down.

…and down.

Last week we were on Craig’s family’s annual camping trip¬†and decided to check it out. ¬†The entire property is off leash if you desire, and dogs are allowed in the buildings as well. ¬†Huneck’s sculptures adorn the property, the area is full of wildflowers, and there seem to be water bowls set around. ¬†There is a doggie play structure and a pond where swimming is welcome–if you have four legs.


The St. Johnsbury area is pretty kid-friendly otherwise, as well. ¬†There is a lot of stuff to do mentioned in our more general¬†write up from last year. ¬†In that article, I neglected to mention it is also near the home base for Circus Smirkus. ¬†Although you don’t have to go to Vermont to see them; they are in Waltham next weekend!

Moxie on the porch of the gallery and shop.

Moxie on the porch of the gallery and shop.

Despite the bittersweet history, this is a happy, peaceful place where community and common interests come together.  We love traveling New England and finding places where art, nature, play, and kid-friendly stuff come together and Dog Mountain is a great one.





Look Park–Northampton, MA

We’ve done write-ups of playground and parks and museums and festivals of all sizes here in the Greater Boston area. ¬†Nothing is too large or too small.

I grew up in Western Massachusetts, and we do have a decent amount of readers out that way, too. ¬†Occasionally I feel compelled to feature things from that region, too, and not just for that crew (hey, they already know about many of them!) ¬†We know many of our Boston area readers are adventurers looking for day trips. ¬†Those of you who went to one of the Five Colleges¬†know what I’m talking about. ¬†It’s also nice to share places close to my heart.

Look Park¬†was my local park growing up, and it’s a really nice one. ¬†It’s private (non-profit) and runs on a trust, admission fees, donations, fundraisers, and grants. ¬†That said, the $5-7 general admission is technically a parking fee, and it is per car rather than per person, and if you walk or bike in for the day, you’re exempt. ¬†A seasonal pass is worth it for locals. ¬†Some, but not all, of the activities have a small fee, not more than a few dollars each.

I'm in orange on the train, surrounded by my mom, my daughters, my nephew and my brother.

I’m in orange on the train, surrounded by my mom, my daughters, my nephew and my brother.

And there are a lot of them: ¬†pedel boats, bumper boats, mini golf, a small zoo, tennis courts, an outdoor theatre, walking trails, ¬†snack bars, a pretty good sledding hill for the winter, and more. ¬†The highlight for many is the kiddie train. ¬†This isn’t a toddler choo-choo of the sort you’ll occasionally see in mall food courts and what not. ¬†It’s a small scale C.P. Huntington steam train, and it goes all around the park, through the zoo and a tunnel. ¬†When I was a kid the tradition was to yell and bang the ceiling when going through!

There are pavilions and a Garden House to rent for larger events, but no one blinks an eye if you lay a blanket down under a tree for a family picnic.

They are having fun, despite lack of smiles--honest!  But when there is lots to do, sometimes you've just gotta rest under a tree.

They are having fun, despite lack of smiles–honest! But when there is lots to do, sometimes you’ve just gotta rest under a tree.

Of course I’ve got to mention the playgrounds! ¬†There are three, two smaller toddler ones, and then one area with yet another toddler one and a big kid one. ¬†They’re fine; the main one in particular is quite large, and will keep the kids entertained, active, and happy, but with no write-home-about unique features.

The seasonal splash park stands out more. ¬†It’s colorful, with fun flower and umbrella sculptures, and a nice awning for parents (or tired kids) to rest under.


They host all kinds of special events, including concerts, and a children’s summer series.¬†

As much as I enjoy this place, would I recommend it as worth the two hour drive as the primary destination? ¬†I don’t know. ¬†Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about it being the only stop because it is in Northampton, a vibrant and kid-friendly college town with lots of restaurants, galleries, theaters, and attractions.

Playground Hunt followers will especially enjoy the A2Z Science and Learning Store as well as the fact that Pulaski Park, a smaller downtown public park, is currently being rebuilt, in large part to make it more nature and child friendly.

Many of you loved our Eric Carle Museum write-up and the places are close enough to do them all in one day. Go for it!



Miles Standish State Forest–Plymouth/Carver, MA

We had a smashing time on our first camping trip with our dog! ¬†And by that we mean “We had a great time!” and not “A spooked pooch smashed our tent poles!” so that’s good.


It was sort of a test trip to see how well she did and how much she enjoyed it before gauging whether to take her on longer trips father afield this summer, and it was a success. Being a quick experimental weekend, we didn’t want to go too far from home. ¬†Many Boston area families who want to go camping without traveling far try Harold Parker State Forest¬†or the Boston Harbor Islands¬†(the second link leads to Angelika’s post about camping on them last year–we all hope to go back soon!) but at about an hour south, Miles Standish State Forest isn’t far either.



Saturday was National Trails Day. ¬†It was an appropriate day to be out hiking and camping, and a great place to do it. ¬†Miles Standish is a pine barrens, which is an interesting ecosystem to explore. ¬†They consist of plants that do well in sandy soil, hence why they are often found near the coast. ¬†You’ll see lots of pine trees and oak scrub.



And berries!  It is a good place to go if you love berries.  The ground is smothered in blueberry bushes, and there are also expansive cranberry bogs. Sadly we were a bit early in the season to enjoy both of those, but they were interesting to learn about.  Pine barrens actually thrive in wildfires.  The large hardy pines survive , and the low lying stuff is fertilized with the ash.  In most ways our fire fighting advancements are a very good thing, but it means many existing pine barrens need to be managed with controlled burns.


While we were relieved the trip went blissfully smoothly, with three days experience we don’t feel qualified to offer too much dog camping advice. ¬†At the same time, it didn’t feel like much of an adjustment. ¬†When we had kids and were discussing our first post-kid camping trip a friend told us, “You two are experienced campers and super comfortable out there! ¬†You’ll be fine!” and they were right. ¬†The big adjustment is actually having the kid or adopting the pet. ¬†Bringing them along on a new-to-them activity doesn’t usually throw a wrench in it if your comfort level is high.

Engineer daddy Craig giving the girls lessons on pendulums, harmonic motion, and on building their own rope pulls so they can propel themselves.

Engineer daddy Craig giving the girls lessons on pendulums, harmonic motion, and on building their own rope pulls so they can propel themselves.

It doesn’t mean new campers will necessarily struggle–just that if you’re going to feel overwhelmed, it’ll happen whether or not you have little creatures along. ¬†Want to try camping with enormous creatures? ¬†Take your horse! ¬†Miles Standish allows equestrian camping as well, in a separate area.


Another thing to take into account with canine camping is your daytime activities, since many attractions aren’t dog friendly. ¬†Edaville USA¬†and Plimoth Plantation¬†are right outside Miles Standish but we’ll save those for day trips with friends and family. ¬†Long Beach¬†allows dogs all day in season on leash, although the parking lots can fill up quickly on gorgeous days. ¬†Dogs are also welcome in the waterfront park areas, where you can review some history at the¬†Mayflower replica and Plymouth Rock¬†and then choose between a playground, a splash park, or a seaside bike trail. ¬†Whether you go for the day or stay overnight or whether you bring four legged friends along or not, there is plenty to see at this nearby destination!


slime?!Pinterest has been the bane of my existence. At first, I was sooo excited at all the inspiration, the creativity, and the awesome ideas of what I could do with my preschool children. Then I tried some ideas. And failed. Quite a lot.
Follow Angelika’s board Ideas for Children on Pinterest.

By training I’m a scientist (Ph.D. in Biology), and with each unsatisfactory attempt at making finger paints that cracked, or colored sand that stayed brown, I got frustrated that the proportions of the ingredients were not great, and that I didn’t know what the variables were that would make each recipe a success.



So my children and I started testing and experimenting. I am compiling all the recipes I have tested and optimized into a handy, boxed collection: Recipes for Disaster. My plan is to produce this as an actual physical product by fall 2014.

Meanwhile, Last year we stayed at the very kid-friendly, arty Searsport Shores Ocean Campground for a week.  Read my blog post of our trip here.  This year, we will be back showing fellow campers some of the trick and lessons we have learned.

During my week as Artist-in-Residence at Searsport Shores Ocean Campground (July 6 to July 12), I will have a different theme each day. I will show you how to make colored sand, pasta, rice, and sugar, several different kinds of paints, doughs, clays, slimes, and BUBBLES. We will measure and cook and mix all these recipes from scratch and I will have several suggestions on what to create from our concoctions Рmaking marbled paper, making your own bouncy ball, a colorful salt mandala…

My sessions will be perfect for all ages Рwe have been trying  these recipes since my children were toddlers. At the same time, using some of these basic materials is only restricted by your creativity. I will be taking pictures to add to my blog Playground Hunt, so please join us in making some of our Recipes for Disaster art.

Patton Park Playground–Hamilton, MA

Read ahead as we get back to our roots with a playground review! ¬†I checked the tags, and I don’t believe Angelika ¬†reviewed Patton Park Playground yet. ¬†She probably wouldn’t have, because it was just as underwhelming as A.P. Rounds was before we rebuilt it. ¬†Even if she had, it’d be time for an update because this playground was also rebuilt last summer! ¬†It is definitely worth a visit.

Bridget and Craig on the large dome climber

Bridget and Craig on the large dome climber

Patton Park is a beautiful community space in Hamilton, MA. ¬†It’s got a lot of open green space, multiple athletic facilities (including a skating pond!), a summer concert series, and an iconic tank statue the kids love to climb on, probably placed in homage to¬†General Patton, who the park is named after. ¬†It’s been long known for all these things, but not so much for the former droopy playground. ¬†But that’s no longer the case, and I’d bet the playground is one of the biggest draws now!


The fundraising for this build was also led by a community group. ¬†Although I believe the DPW staff did the construction, a lot of the volunteers’ arduous work went into fundraising, with the final pull being around $240,000. ¬†Their initiatives were creative, well-run, and well-attended, but part of the reason they were able to pull in so much so quickly is due to the Community Preservation Act. ¬†It’s neat to see first hand the difference this can make (Hint, hint, hint, Stoneham-ites!)

We recommend checking out the final result! Some of the highlights include a “pirate ship” main structure, a toddler area, climbing cubes, a dome web structure, a zipline, and more.


Best shot of the large “pirate ship” due to not realizing there was a bad unphotoshoppable “floater” in what would’ve otherwise been the good shot til I got home. Sorry guys. Fun car climber in the foreground.

This these things that look like gamer dice or alien pods have climber handholds all over them to practice your bouldering.  Artistic and functional!

This these things that look like gamer dice or alien pods have climber handholds all over them to practice your bouldering. Artistic and functional!

The zipline!  Even though my little peanut is checking it out here, it appears to be adult-weight worthy

The zipline! Even though my little peanut is checking it out here, it appears to be adult-weight worthy

More thumbnails:


Even though Hamilton is a 25 minute drive or so from the Stoneham area this playground is on the way to some of the area’s best beaches and attractions, and it is a worthwhile destination on its own. ¬†It’s also worth noting the plaza across the street has a Dunkin Donuts. ¬†I believe it a rule for Boston area parents and caregivers to show up at local playgrounds with a large iced coffee in hand (and maybe a treat for the kids) so I can’t close this review without mentioning this very important detail *wink wink*. ¬†Hope to see you there!


Wolf Hollow–Ipswich, MA

“What do you think is in this bucket?” asked Z Soffron, Assistant Director of Wolf Hollow, as he emerged through the pack with a large orange pail. ¬†“Raw meat?”


He dumped it on the ground and we saw large red dripping chunks, which the wolves excitedly started lapping at. ¬†Nope, it was homemade apple and watermelon “popsicles” (just fruit pieces frozen in water, an appropriate summer snack for your canines, as well).

While verbally reminding us that they are wild keystone predators, by serving what is basically a healthy version of the snowcones featured at the festival’s entrance, they made these creatures ¬†instantly relatable as well.


And that seems to be the point of Wolf Hollow’s Free Family Fun Fest. ¬†Wolf Hollow is a non-profit wolf education center, and an affordable day trip any season ($7.50 adults, $5.00 children and seniors). ¬†But once a year they open their gates for free so newcomers can check out what there is to learn, and old fans and new friends can enjoy the celebratory atmosphere.

It was very crowded–not overly so or in a bad way–but one could see how taking in these fascinating animals in their multi-acre sanctuary like atmosphere would take on a whole different tone on a quieter day, and I’m sure many first-time visitors (like us!) are now eager to have that experience as well.

But the Family Fun Festival is a good way to do it once a  year, too.  The usual hour long presentation was cut in half.  While it was well done and made me curious about what else there is to learn, the shorter time is great for the younger children.  As were the games and activities, including a coloring contest, puppet making, tye-dying, Pin the Nose on the Wolf, and more.  There were food and drink vendors, and if you saw the post I made on the Facebook feed, the free Ipswich Ale Brewery samples for the adults did not disappoint!  I recommend the summer ale!


The rest of the year they have hour presentations on weekend days (going down to Sundays only during the thick of winter) at 1:30pm.  They are occasionally cancelled due to bad weather or special events so it is good to call first.  Groups of 20 or larger, like school field trips or camp groups, can schedule presentations by appointment on weekdays.

Wolf Hollow supports its wolves and their habitat through their modest admission fees, gift shop sales, private donations, special fundraisers, and their Adopt a Wolf program so if you go and enjoy it, support them!


When I ask a small child what their favorite animal is, I find I often get one of several answers: dinosaurs (a lot to learn but sadly extinct), unicorns (imaginary, but many great creative myths) or wolves. ¬†With the latter, you’re in luck. ¬†Two local non-profits aim to feature them and educate us about them. ¬†There are the Mexican Grey Wolves at Stone Zoo and the the British Colombian Timber Wolves at Wolf Hollow. ¬†We’ve got easy access to these popular but occasionally misunderstood animals, so take advantage of it!


Danvers-Wenham SwampWalk

“Hey, mommy! ¬†We’re bringing you to the swamp today!”


Some mothers might hear those words Mother’s Day morning and wonder if the kids were exacting revenge for having been subjected to that celery-parsnip soup last week: ¬†“You want green sludge! We’ll show you green sludge!”¬†At the very least they might wonder if they are allowing one too many screenings of The Princess Bride.

Yeah, I essentially got to view a skunk cabbage bouquet for Mother's Day--but liked it!

Yeah, I essentially got to view a skunk cabbage bouquet for Mother’s Day–but liked it!

But no, my kids know they have a nature geek mommy and that I’d be genuinely pleased and excited to hear those words as part of their Mother’s Day plans for me.


We’d been wanting to check out the Danvers-Wenham SwampWalk for a while, so we met up there with some friends, who had originally recommended it: Daryl, Emmaline and Gideon. ¬†Sadly their mom Meghan had to miss it due to her obligations as an emergency services pediatrician. ¬†I figured she could rescue the kids who were already sick, while we’d work on her kids’ base immunity by smearing them around in some dirt.

The swampwalk is a loop off the Danvers Rail Trail, and a great place to see some of our local wetland plants and animals. ¬†If you do decide to tour it as part of your bike trip, you’ve got to park the bike at the entrance to the boardwalk section, but they’ve got bike racks set up there. ¬†It’s also accessible by foot, just a short ways in from a parking area. ¬†It’s dog-friendly (on leash, of course), so we brought Moxie and our friends’ dog Scout.


At about a mile and a quarter, it is a relatively short doable walk for kids, and our 2-year-olds walked the whole thing without struggle. That said, much of it is an elevated boardwalk, so gauge whether you think your little one will be careful when it comes to staying on it when you are deciding between babywearing and toddling. ¬†Because the water is shallow and we’re not in alligator country, risks are probably more ¬†unintended mucky mudbath related than immediate danger related, but you might want to read up on some safety practices first anyway.

Okay, okay, so they did get rests and shoulder rides near the end…


There are several beaver lodges along the walk, and the 4-year-olds thought they spotted one bobbing along but it was too far away to get a definitive sighting.

We saw probably about a dozen common brown water snakes, both on land and swimming, so if you’ve got ophidiophobia, you might want to sit this one out. ¬†I love snakes, but would not want to go on a goose-ridden hike, so I understand. ¬†They greatly interested the kids, and thankfully did not interest the dogs one bit. ¬†They get quite large and thick; we saw ones at least three feet, and they can get to nearly twice that. ¬†They are non-venemous and avoid you when crossing paths, but are quick to bite when handled, so be cautious that way.


Check out the big guy in front of that large tuft. Sometimes we look for letter shapes in nature. It’s easy to spot Ys, but Ss can be a bit tougher. This friend helped us with that! Thanks!

It was a gorgeous sunny day, so we were a bit surprised we didn’t see any turtles out basking. ¬†The pre-schoolers are both little chatterboxes, which is sometimes not conducive to spotting wildlife, but is thankfully very conducive to engaging them deeply and educationally on wildlife when we do see it, so it evens out. ¬†But apparently turtles don’t have great hearing, especially when it comes to high pitched noises like 4-year-old voices, so it was probably just co-incidence. ¬†We also didn’t see (or feel) excessive bugs, surprisingly, but we put on our repellant and sunscreen ahead of time just to be safe.


We DID see a wide variety of birds, and you bird watchers among us will lament that we are not great at identifying them. ¬†I’ll have to be sure to bring along my trusty Audubon Guide to New England next time.


We were excited to get another great local outdoor destination off our bucket lists. Any requests for a future write-up?



Hounds and History–Dogtown Commons, Gloucester, MA

If you’re anything like us, you usually head to Gloucester for the beaches and galleries, and maybe some great seafood. ¬†Today, we decided to try something different.

We woke up to a morning a bit rainier than originally forecast, a postponed playdate due to a sick friend (get well soon, Em!), outdoor activities and chores partly limited due to my sprained finger, and a dog who was rearing to get out.

A good sentiment before a long hike!

A good sentiment before a long hike!

We figured it was an appropriate day to go to Cape Ann but stay¬†inland¬†for once. ¬†Dogtown Commons¬†is a historically protected wilderness in Gloucester and Rockport. ¬†It’s about 3600 acres (not too different in size to our beloved Middlesex Fells!)

Some beautiful natural sights we saw:


Even the dried grass is interesting to look at, especially as it camouflages our dog quite well!


It has an extraordinarily rich, and sometimes slightly spooky history, which made checking it out on an overcast day appropriately atmospheric. ¬†Telling your kids some of the legends will keep them engaged and interested on a day hike. ¬†There’s a great article¬†here¬†with some history.

A marker of an ill-fated bullfight.

A marker of an ill-fated bullfight.

In short, some of the excitement involves the fact it is suspected the first settlers picked the rocky and hilly area to hide from pirates. ¬†Some of the last settlers were accused of being witches. ¬†And there is no shortage of stories from in between, including one of a very bloody bullfight. (Not the traditional kind you might think of. ¬†Apparently a drunk guy wrestled his pet on dares from friends…and eventually lost.) ¬†Oh, and some think the area is¬†haunted.

Bridget's leaning against a huge boulder, pensive.  Thinking about ghosts?

Bridget’s leaning against a huge boulder, pensive. Thinking about ghosts?

The area is overflowing with glacial boulders, and there many formations to admire and huge erratics to climb.   During the Great Depression, philanthropist Roger Babson hired out-of-work stonecutters to carve inspirational quotes and historical references on the boulders to mark some of the old building foundations and sites.

Bridget found a rock that said "study" and pretended to practice her letters.  The site of an old school?

Bridget found a rock that said “study” and pretended to practice her letters. The site of an old school?

...and Craig proceeded to move her aside and sit on the "Y" to change the meaning.  Probably not the first goofy dad to do that.

…and Craig proceeded to move her aside and sit on the “Y” to change the meaning. Probably not the first goofy dad to do that.


People don’t seem to be exactly sure where the name comes from, but it is suspected to be canine based. ¬†No, it is not a formal dog park, although it is hugely popular with dog walkers who are more than welcome and who are partly inspired and drawn by the name, I’m sure. ¬†It seems the most popular theory, cited in the links above, is that many of the residents were Revolutionary War widows. ¬†Living alone, it was common for them to have dogs for protection. ¬†After they died or moved on, some of the dogs stayed as strays, and it was not rare to see them running around or hear them howling.

We imagine Moxie was so sad to leave she blew us raspberries!

We imagine Moxie was so sad to leave she blew us raspberries!

Gloucester is a gorgeous and quintessential New England town with¬†many things to do. ¬†But one of these times, go visit this lesser known enclave. ¬†It’s only a short hop away for many of our outdoorsy readers–check it out!

Fiona can't wait to come back!

Fiona can’t wait to come back!

Recipes for Disaster

Creating Creativity

I have two very active and creative children. We used to go through a lot of store-bought playdough and paints until I decide they were too expensive. Over the last 5 years I have tried out a lot of recipes for play dough, different kinds of paints, slimes, goops, and lots of other basic craft supplies to give my children the ingredients for their creativity.

I have put together a collection of fifty of the easiest and best craft supply recipes that, for example, made the best playdough or finger paint for the least amount of work. My children have tested all the results for how well they work, whether they stain skin, clothing, or work surfaces, and for how long they are fun.

The Product: 50 Craft Recipes on Waterproof Cards in a cute Box

The recipes for homemade craft supplies are printed on durable, waterproof cards that can be used for years in kitchens at home or schools.  They are packaged in a sturdy recipe box that will also make a good gift.

If you think a set of recipes for playdough, different paints, and a whole lot of other craft supplies would be great to have either at home or school, please pledge now for this kickstarter campaign. You will get one of the first edition sets mailed to you by August. However, the printing and making of recipe boxes only become financially viable if we print 100 sets. So, please pledge today ūüėÄ

Why these are so good to have:

‚ÄúPlay to learn‚ÄĚ has been the foundation of my child raising philosophy. I like to provide basic ingredients so that my two preschoolers can independently explore textures, colors, and smells. In creating this compilation, my children and I have spent many hours experimenting: measuring liquids, mixing colors, watching chemical reactions,… We have learned to play.

I have hugely enjoyed Jen’s and Alex’ jaw dropping expressions when we made shrinky plastic, extra gooey slime, and bouncy balls. But the biggest reward for me has been their constant stream of questions: How do you make that? Can we make that ourselves? I smell something Рis that a chemical? What color do I get when I mix blue and green? Can I paint my belly? Can I paint the dog? Can we go to the supermarket and get more cornstarch? Seriously!

I have learned a lot testing these recipes and even dusted off some long-forgotten chemistry. My children spent many happy hours creating and being curious. We hope you find these recipes useful and inspiring.

Drink your Trees – making maple syrup

I won a maple syrup making kit at a charity auction. AND GOT VERY EXCITED. I had never made maple syrup before, so I was super glad the kit came with these three books (pics link to

The kit I got came with a metal spile, a hook, and an aluminum bucket and lid – like this kit on :Maple Sugaring / Syrup Tapping Starter Kit with Metal Buckets. The only other thing you need is a drill to make a hole in the tree. 7/16th drill bits are a bit hard to find, but that’s what the old fashioned metal spiles need.

(Aside: there are lots of different spiles, taps, lines, and collection vessels available on For two spiles we used sand buckets, for one a plastic drinking jug – just need something to catch the sap)

I used my cordless power drill to drill into the bark. You’re supposed to do it between a big root and the first big branch, because that’s where the sap will flow the strongest. I kinda just drilled in where it was convenient to stand. The hole is supposed to be 1-2 inches and angled slightly upwards. I think I got that more or less.

I cleaned to drill dust out of the hole and was pretty much amazed that sap started leaking out immediately. I guess I got there just at the right time. Stuck the hook over the spile and hammered the whole thing into the hole. Attached the bucket and lid, and then waited.

The sap flowed at different rates over the next few days. A couple of days it filled the whole 2 gallon bucket, on others 1/4 or 1/2 a gallon. The sap flow is super dependent on the air temperature. For the sap to flow well, it needs freezing temperatures at night, and about 40 deg F during the day. There seems to be some wiggle room. I just checked the bucket a couple of times a day (mostly because I was curious about what was going on).

Turning Sap into Syrup

So maple sap only has a slight sweet taste (that’s me drinking it straight from the pot). It looks and tastes like water otherwise. If you collect it in the morning and some of the sap has frozen, that is the BEST! The ice is mostly water, the sweet part gets concentrated in the part that hasn’t frozen.

Then I filtered all the sap through a cheese cloth into a giant pot and boiled it. A lot. It’s a huge reduction and quite steamy.¬† I’m trying to work out how to do it in the crockpot, so I don’t have the gas stove going so much.

The books say to reduce the sap until it looks like syrup – light brown-ish, slightly sticky. And if you want to get precise, you can use a thermometer and hygrometer. I have a candy thermometer so I used that to heat the syrup to about 215degF. I also took some of it higher to make maple candy – mixed success there, though all was delicious (just some was too soft, and some too hard).

I then poured the boiling hot syrup into clean mason jars and sealed them up. They seem sterile and nothing has grown in the first batch, which has been at room temperature for over a week.

Things I learned: sap is yummy, and there is a lot of it. Maple syrup is much yummier but more precious that platinum. You just need a way to make a hole in a tree and a way to catch the copious amounts of sap.

And here are some photos of me making maple syrup: