By Mike Colamarino
Darke County Parks
After sitting down at the breakfast table with my family, looking over the top of a steaming stack of French toast, I realized how happy I was to share this time with my family. However, I alarmingly realized that I was almost completely out of maple syrup! I immediately got on the horn and started calling around to make plans to tap some maple trees for maple syrup boiling in 2024.
This year we are taking a modern approach to our classic maple sap collection process. We will be using tubing, as well as hanging buckets, to collect our sap. The tubing method for collecting maple sap saw its debut and trial run at Bear’s Mill last year. We have a steep hillside full of maple trees that would be too treacherous for bucket collection, but proved to be a perfect applicant for a tubing collection method. When hanging sap collection lines, you want the tubing on the first tree to be your highest point of elevation. You then want your final collection point to be the lowest point in the line. This can be achieved with as little as a 2-degree slope across the tubing line. With the help of gravity and molecular cohesion, or surface tension, a siphon effect can be achieved to help move sap through any sags you may have in your sap tubing line. We found the set-up process was longer than hanging buckets, but the labor saved and quantity of sap collected, with less waste, was a process we wanted to grow. We practice and experiment with a wide variety of tactics, tools, and methods to help run our maple syrup program well and educate the public on all the ins and outs of the process.
If you are interested in learning more about gathering maple sap, or learning how to boil it into maple syrup, come visit us at Shawnee Prairie Preserve. We will be boiling maple syrup until the 2nd week in March if weather permits. We are always looking for volunteers and inquiring minds to keep our tradition of making the sweetest stuff on your breakfast plate alive. Although we make locally sourced, organic maple syrup each year for the public, we also educate and encourage our community to try their hand at this historic tradition.
This year we will be hosting the annual Maple Sugarin’ on the Prairie festival on March 2nd from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Shawnee Prairie Preserve. This includes guided tours of the maple syrup boiling process and educational tours of the history of maple syrup here in Ohio. The Friends of the Parks will once again be hosting the Waffle Breakfast from 8 a.m.-noon at the Shawnee Prairie Preserve Nature Center.
If you or someone you know would like to see what the world of parks and recreation with the Darke County Parks looks like,we are hiring seasonal positions this spring, so keep an eye on our website, www.darkecountyparks.org, for details on open positions and how to apply. For any questions about volunteering, call us at Shawnee Prairie Preserve Nature Center at 937-548-0165, for more information.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to explore the great outdoors!