Discover what it takes to craft maple syrup with the St. Charles Park District’s new program Maple Magic, March 19 & 20. Time slots for the experience run every half hour between 8 AM and 10:30 AM.
Park District staff will lead small groups through the steps to tapping a tree, collecting sap and how the sap is boiled down to make what know as maple syrup.
“Any maple can produce sap that becomes maple syrup,” explained Chris Gingrich, assistant superintendent of outdoor education. Sugar Maples, however, have a higher concentration of sugar in their sap, making them preferred for syrup production.
As the weather begins to change and we experience warmer days and cold nights, the sap runs through the trees, making it an ideal time to tap a tree and collect the sap. It is the sap that provides nutrients to the trees during the winter months.
Sap is comprised of water and sugar and if one were to take a sip direct from a tap tree, it would probably taste more like water, with some able to detect a bit of sweetness. The process of turning that sap into maple syrup is boiling down the water to a sugary, sticky consistency.
And it takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.
It is easier, and less costly to mass produce syrup using sugar from corn, which can be found in many breakfast syrups, Gingrich said.
If all the syrup talk has one thinking about breakfast, Maple Magic includes a post-event pancake breakfast at Hickory Knolls, Gingrich said thanks to some freshly prepared pancakes from Colonial Café.
Additionally, Gingrich said the plan is to offer a similar version of the program to local school and scout groups, those interested should inquire at Hickory Knolls, 630-513-4399, for more information.
Maple Magic is an outdoor program so dress for the weather, enjoy some time with nature and cap the visit with a stack of delicious pancakes. Advance registration required, see the website for dates and class times. Hickory Knolls’ website can be found at stcnature.org.
Find hands-on animal experiences at Primrose Farm
The St. Charles Park District has some wonderful opportunities to explore animal care through its Animal Adventures programs offered at Primrose Farm. The working farm and its resident animals provide a unique opportunity for visitors of all ages to learn through hands-on activities.
In Hands-On Milking, participants learn what goes into the care of the farm’s dairy cows while spending time with the resident cows and yes, learning how to milk a cow. While in Chicken & Egg, participants help gather warm eggs straight from the nest while learning more about what it takes to care for chickens.
While the hands-on time with cows and chickens is better suited for children who are at least in elementary school, younger children are able to get up close with animals too with the Feed the Chickens and Feed the Goats classes. All children ages 15 and younger must have an adult accompany them to the programs.
And one of the popular programs is Hold Your Horses, where participants can spend some time with the Primrose Farm horses and explore basic grooming techniques and learn about equine care practices.
To see the class schedule and register, visit https://www.primrosefarm.org/animal-adventures/
These programs offer a unique way for children and young adults to learn more about the animals and what it takes for their daily care while engaging with the animals in small group settings. To harvest fresh eggs, feed a goat and brush the mane of a horse is an experience that creates lasting memories.