We had a terrific time tapping trees at our maple sugaring program! The sap was flowing (the cold weather gave us a slow, steady drip), the outside fire boiling our sap provided a welcomed break from the cold, and the pairing of hot syrup on ice alongside a dill pickle was a delectable match made in maple heaven.
Join us on Sunday, March 16th between 1 and 4 pm to learn more about The Nature Place. We’ll walk around camp (maybe even see a crocus or two poking up through the snow), watch a slide show of summers past to get an idea of how we do things here, and hopefully answer any and all questions you have about camp.
307 Hungry Hollow Road, Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977.
Beyond leading us on tasty wild edible adventures, our local wild foraging expert and Nature Place activity leader Paul Tappenden has another neat skill that would help us thrive in the wild without our usual camping accoutrement of stoves, tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, etc. -Building debris huts!
With some guidance and additional help, Paul created this shelter by first framing it out with some fallen logs, gradually building up the walls with branches and twigs, and then covering the whole structure with a thick coating of leaves. The building team then created a padded floor using leaves and evergreen bows.
A shelter like this can really stay warm and dry, even in the worst of weather. Luckily for us we’ll be building debris huts in the summer, when the weather is balmy. If we’re on a camping overnight we have tents to sleep in!
Paul Tappenden is the Rockland Forager. See regularly updated blogs, videos, events, and what he and other foragers, herbalists, and naturalists are up to at www.suburbanforagers.com.
First you need a maple tree. There are two reliable methods to be sure you’ve got a maple – opposite branching and brown pointy buds. The internet also has plenty of images you can use as a resource to be sure you’re tapping a maple and not an oak. This late winter weather of cold nights and warmer days is the perfect time to tap, as the contrast in temperatures is what gets the sap moving within the tree.
Next you need to drill a hole into your maple tree. We use a 7/16 inch drill bit to fit our spouts. Choose a tree that looks healthy (no decaying branches or dead-looking spots on the trunk) and is at least 14 inches in diameter (any smaller and your drilling will damage the tree). Drill your hole at a slight upward angle so that the sap runs downward, and while you can choose any part of the tree to drill, we prefer the south facing side in order to maximize sunlight, warmth, and flowing sap.
After drilling, clean out any pieces of wood in the hole. Now you can gently hammer in your spout until it fits tightly. We get our spouts from Bascom, but you can get yours from any sugaring supply company, ebay, amazon, or other places. You can also use other materials as a spout (plastic tubing is common), as long as sap is dripping from the tree into your bucket.
Hang your bucket! If you’re ordering a bucket from a sugaring company you can order a lid along with it. You can also make your own bucket from things around your house, and improvise some sort of lid to keep out the rain, snow, or inevitable bugs. We’ve seen milk jugs, five gallon buckets, sand pails, two-liter soda bottles, and more hanging off maples.
Once you have collected a decent amount of sap, it’s time to boil it down into syrup! Sap is around 98% water, cooking it is intended to evaporate the water and concentrate the sugar. Forty parts of sap will boil down to one part of syrup – so be prepared to boil a lot. As your sap gets close to being syrup you will notice a sweeter smelling steam and a darker color in your boiling pot. Seven degrees above the boiling point of water (for most of us 219 degrees Fahrenheit) means your sap has officially become syrup, but really, if it looks like syrup, smells like syrup, and tastes like syrup, you’ve made maple syrup.
Now you can eat your very own maple syrup from your own maple tree, a delight that doesn’t come easily, but one we think is well worth the effort. Maple sugaring season is over when the sap stops dripping for a few days, looks a little off-color or has a slight off-taste, or when the buds start to open. You can pull your spout out of its hole (which will heal by itself) and give your maple tree a big, sappy hug.
Attend an open house to learn more about The Nature Place. We’ll take a tour across the fairy stream, past the pond, and through the garden as we answer your questions and go over the ins and outs of camp. Want to know what ‘non-competitive and nature-oriented’ actually means? Stop by to find out.
All open houses run from 1-4 pm and are located in the Lower School building of Green Meadow Waldorf School, 307 Hungry Hollow Road, Chestnut Ridge NY 10977
The free public programs preceding some of our open houses are an opportunity to experience a ‘taste’ of camp firsthand, whether you’re sitting enraptured by Chuck’s winter tales or tromping through the swamp with us hunting spring peepers. Camp families and friends who just can’t wait until summer enthusiastically attend our events, and this often gives prospective families a chance to chat with current camp families about what things are really like at The Nature Place!
Saturday, 4/19. 11am-Noon
Great, galloping, goofy, gratifying games! At The Nature Place we play games that are cooperative rather than competitive, which means we all have fun, play hard, play fair, usually laugh a lot, and everyone gets included. Join us as we play some of the games we love to play at camp.
Spring Peeper Hunt
Saturday, 5/3. 7:30-9pm
Come ‘hunt’ the harbingers of spring with The Nature Place as we tromp through the swamp at dusk, using our ears to find these tiny but very loud frogs. No nets or other ‘hunting’ gear required, only a sharp ear, a quiet footfall, patience, and a decent pair of boots.
Our camp fairs in Manhattan and Brooklyn are convenient opportunities for prospective NYC families to meet us and learn more about The Nature Place, right in your neighborhood. We’ll be at a table next to other camps, just keep your eye out for the handmade wooden display and the small rocks we hand out!
All camp fairs run from Noon-3pm
Bank Street School
610 West 112th St.
World Class Learning Academy
44 East 2nd Street
St. Jean Baptiste HS
173 East 75th Street
7 West 83rd Street