Maple Sugaring Days are in full swing this March, and the outings are “SOLD OUT”! For Nature Educators Niki Espy and Christina Hill it’s a particular kind of March Madness, a sweet one, that gives kids a taste of an age-old outdoor tradition.
Kids from Neighborhood House pre-school and after school programs are busy drilling, tapping, and collecting sap from maple trees at our 93-acre Dodge County Nature Center. Soon, kids from area schools will be making their annual visits – for many, it’s a return trip that builds a sense of connection with the Nature Center’s flora and fauna, as they track changes through the seasons, and take part in a cultural activity that goes back generations.
This year Neighborhood House is also hosting FREE maple sugaring days that are open to the public on two Saturdays in March: March 14th & 21st. The outings are part of our Family Adventures series, funded through MPS Partnership for the Arts & Humanities, and include bus transportation and hands-on activities. The increasingly popular outings are booked solid this year!
Why is March maple sugar time? It’s all about the freeze-thaw cycle: when days warm up into the 30s and 40, and nights are below freezing, the sap starts to run. The flow can last several weeks, and sap accumulates by the gallon.
Neighborhood House’s maple sugaring season technically began back in October, 2014, when a crew of 13 volunteers, friends, and Nature Center neighbors – city folks and country folks together – cut and stacked nearly two cords of wood. The wood fuels the outdoor Sugar Shack where sap is boiled down into syrup (40 gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of syrup), and heats our lodge for winter programs.
In February, more volunteers, including some from the Student Conservation Association, drilled and tapped trees to help prepare the sugar-bush.
Contact Christina Hill for more information (414-933-6161 xt. 175) on Nature Center programs for schools.