What a glorious beautiful day! It's still chilly here in upstate NY but the sun was shining and the air was mild and there's a hint of green on the ground. For the first day of spring we took the kids out for Maple Weekend! It's a two weekend event where folks can go around to the different places that collect sap and make their own syrup. We have a favorite place - the Orebed Sugar Shack. Every year, at least since last year when we first started attending, they have alpacas set up in the yard. I'm getting ahead of myself here, though.
When we first arrived we went first to the out door processing area. This little operation was set up the old fashioned way, with a wood stove and a pan of sap on top of it, boiling down. I love the smell of sap being boiled down to syrup. It brings back a memory from my childhood when all us kids made maple syrup with my dad and our neighbors. We made it over a wood fire and a Coleman camping stove. The kids really didn't know what to think of it, only that they wanted to see the alpacas. They did wait patiently while the guys around the fire explained the process and showed how they came to the finished product.
Next we headed to the alpacas. Three little females - Deedee, Evening and ...well, I can't remember her name. I want to say Evelyn, but the boyfriend wants to say Esmerelda. I think we're both wrong. The kids wanted to touch them, feed them and ride them. One of the guys brought each one over for the kids to feel. Their fiber was so thick the kids hands disappeared when they touched them. I was like, you've touched one alpaca you've touched them all, and the guy told me that wasn't true. I then proceeded to do my own alpaca touch test and he was right! Each was was totally different! If you don't believe me find an alpaca farm and try it out yourself!
We then went into the store area where they make maple syrup with more modern techniques. It's a huge contraption that fills a whole room and makes great syrup. We got to hear how it was done, and best of all we got to taste it! It was dark and sweet and I could imagine it on vanilla ice cream- yum! The kids were a little worried about trying syrup, that is until I told them that this was the stuff we put on mema's french toast, then they were very happy to taste! It was the very dark syrup and the maker was really surprised that I liked it but I think it has a much better taste than the lighter syrups. Apparently more people prefer light syrups. Well, I like my beer light but darken my syrup any day!
We of course picked up a quart for home, as well as alpaca fiber finger puppets for the kids. Once home I made homemade macaroni and cheese while the kids played with the wii. All in all it was a really good day.
Today was also very special for another reason. Ten years ago today I lost my dad. Although I always look forward to the first day of spring as a new beginning, in fact I consider it the beginning of the "real" year, it also marks the end of my dad's life. He was a good man, and I strive to be like him in the way I treat people and how I handle situations. I get my green thumb from him as well as my feet and my urge to homestead. My dad was a rare breed and I miss him very much. I love you dad. Wait until you look down on my gardens this year!