On Saturday, March 28th, Boston ICO volunteers Jeff, Meg, and Melissa accompanied 6 St. Peters 7th and 8th graders and their trip leader, James, to the Lands Sake Sugaring Off Festival in Weston, MA. The group met up at St. Peters in Dorchester (braving the light snow and slush!) and took the 40 minute drive out to Weston Middle School, home of a maple sugaring program and real working wood-fire sugar shack! Many of the students knew that maple syrup came from trees, but only about half had ever had it before.
Our tour (led by middle school students in the afterschool program) started by learning how to identify sugar maples and how to drill into them and set a tap to cause minimal damage to the tree. We all tasted the fresh sap right out of the collecting bucket, and it was almost like water, just barefly tinted and sweet - at that point the sap is 98% water! The kids described how they had spent the last month and a half collecting the sap from almost 700 Maples in the Weston area, as this is the best time of year to collect sap, when temperatures drop in the 20's at night and rise to the low 40's during the day. We were then led into the sugar shack that was billowing with steam rising out the vents in the top.and watched the sap boiling in a wide basin over a very hot wood-fired stove. There, one of the professional staff and the middle schoolers described the process of how the sap is slowly reduced in a 40:1 ratio of sap to syrup, and how the various grades of syrup (light to dark) can be produced depending on the type of sap coming during each time of year, and the amount of time it boils.
After that, we got to step out and enjoy some pancakes and locally raised sausage with the fresh hot maple syrup - judging by the lack of leftovers, I would say it was pretty tasty. The St. Peters kids worked off their sugar with a game of outdoor basketball in the snow on the cleared court - the first time we had played basketball outside in months! We then warmed up quickly in the car and took a short drive to Cat Rock Park in Weston to hike across the snow-covered trails out to a pond through the tall pine trees. The kids loved encountering the various breeds of dogs out for hikes with their owners, especially a large mastiff that was over 200 pounds - he was the size of a pony!
We then went for a lunch of pizza and salad at a nearby Bertucci's and talked about what we learned that day, what the kids wanted to do when they grow up, and what trips they want to go on this summer (hikes in the woods was a popular choice - we will keep that in mind!) It was a great way to say goodbye to Winter and welcome in Spring
Photos of the trip can be found here: