Saturday, March 15, 2008

Highland Maple Festival

We are feeling much better and I thank you for the kind words about my scarf. I found a pattern for another that I really love, but it may have to wait. After pricing the mohair and ribbon yarns, I figured I might be better off just buying the goat. Maybe by the time its hair is long enough, I will have learned to spin my own yarn. Knitting is quite expensive, no?

Speaking of mohair and spinning, I got to immerse myself in both at the Highland Maple Festival last weekend. Faith-Lane Johnson of Three Girls Fiber sells handspun yarn and beautiful needle-felted creations. I was hoping she would bring her big angora bunny as she has in the past, but she said there just wasn't enough room this year. Faith was kind enough to show me how to needle felt, and she even let me have a stab at it. And if you're lucky enough to make it to the festival this weekend, you may be able to find a little felted sheep or bunny at Faith's booth with my blood on it.

Next up was Tacy and Maw Hawkins booth. I've been buying my throw rugs from these ladies for years not only because they are soft and beautiful, but because they last forever and get better with each washing. This year I didn't even notice the rugs because as I rounded the corner I heard the faintest little whir whir and saw Tacy spinning yarn. I told her that I was trying to learn to spin on a drop spindle and not really getting the hang of it. She very patiently showed me how to spin on the wheel, spreading out the roving and getting the treadle going and pinching, and I do have a little piece of yarn to show for it, but I definitely need a lot more practice. I am not the most coordinated gal, and my hands and foot did not want to cooperate at all.

I didn't get any pictures of me spinning, so instead here's a guy whose hands and feet work together perfectly. He's working on a handle for his handmade butter churns.

Every year, we make a point to visit the sugar camps in the area and this year we were shocked to hear that Puffenbarger's Sugar Camp had been destroyed by fire. I refused to believe the news because the Maple Tour signs were still up and there were cars going up to the camp, but Mr. Puffenbarger sadly informed me that an electrical fire had indeed destroyed over 700 gallons of syrup and much of their equipment. They had been making syrup for fifty years. The signs were up because they were still able to make and sell maple donuts. Their maple syrup operation was a pretty neat affair because they used hundreds of yards of plastic tubing to collect the sugar water from the trees and a cow milker to efficiently suck it out of the tubing into the tank.

Just up the road from Puffenbarger's is Rexrode's Sugar Orchard. The Rexrode's make their syrup the old-fashioned way...mostly.

While they do use some plastic tubing, they also still use metal buckets hung from the tap. This grand old tree is big enough to support four buckets, trees smaller than 12 inches in diameter can only support one bucket.

The buckets are then collected and sap is poured into a holding tank which feeds into a reverse osmosis machine. Reverse osmosis removes a substantial portion of the water from the sap before it enters the evaporator. This not only cuts down the boiling time, but also reduces evaporator fuel cost.

After the excess water is removed, the result is a thicker, milkier sugar water waiting to be boiled.

Time for the boil. When you boil, the rest of the water evaporates, leaving the sugar. The boil takes many hours...

...and many sticks of wood.

The trip wouldn't be complete without a stop at the trout hatchery to feed the fish and pick up a box of fillets to take home.

And of course we can't forget the lambs.

These guys were being carefully attended by mama llama who takes her job very seriously. As soon as we stopped the car, she came to the fence and gave us the once over as if to say, "Who are you and what are you doing here?"

Last but not least, we spotted these guys on the way home and had to turn around to get a better look. I'm still not sure exactly what they are but I do know that they are very skittish and someone needs to fire their guard llama.


jennyville said...

Oh, man. I've eaten almost a whole dozen maple donuts just by myself this weekend. I should've slipped into a maple-donut-induced sugar coma hours ago.
We've finished off almost all the boxes we bought, and word is that there aren't any left to be bought anywhere, so I'm looking into making my own (although that's really the last thing I need, is to be able to eat these year-round). We'll see how that goes. Mr. Ville made his own maple syrup this year, so I should have plenty to play with.

Great pics, too! Those buckets of mohair are such pretty colors. :)

Heather said...

What a wonderful adventure!!!