She directed us to a greenhouse where she told us a bit of the history around sugaring. Legend has it that an Indian discovered maple sap when his wife, at the end of her wits and out of food sent her brave out to search for food. At the end of the day he had gone through his provisions and come up with nothing –when he noticed a squirrel chewing on a twig in a tree, and noticed that the squirrel was licking the end of the twig where he had chewed. Aha – he sampled it himself and had discovered maple sap. Jan described the various attempts and accidents that then defined the process for separating the water from the sweet syrup. They used the syrup as a preservative for their dried foods.
After showing us the changes through time in collection techniques we left the warmth of the greenhouse and went to what I called the “show and tell” tree that had three taps and three buckets. Buckets are no longer used, instead tubing is rigged to run between and among the taps and an electrical motor somehow pushes the sap to the sugar house. It was fun because in one bucket we saw sap that had frozen as it ran out of the tap heading toward the bucket – a “sap-sicle”! We learned that they have something on the order of a mile and a half of tubing on the farm. While there are some trees on their property, most of the trees they tap are not on their land, rather on land that belongs to the Worcester diocese. They have an agreement which allows them to tap and in return they care for the woods, removing dead or diseased trees. Then we headed up to the sugar house where the sap is heated to draw out the syrup. Jan had told us that she and her husband are the only employees at the farm. I felt my first wave of fatigue when she told us that when the cooker is going they need to throw 8-10 logs into the fire every 5 or 10 minutes for the 6 or so hours that it takes for the process.
As we strolled back toward the greenhouse to sample some syrup she pointed out the orchard on the hill that they tend spring and summer, and the vegetable garden area. Earlier she had told us that next week she will begin vegetable seedlings in one of the other greenhouses. In her “spare” time she makes jams and jellies with produce from the garden and orchard, maple products such as mustards and rubs and sauces along with putting up cans and bottles of maple syrup, and makes maple cheesecake (yum!). She also told us that recently they had started growing lettuce hydroponically in their basement! Remember, it’s just the two of them doing all of this. (When I came home and looked up the website, www.thewarrenfarm.com I found that they have even more product line offerings!) Oh, and in spring and summer they sell plants too…
I’m looking forward to going back in the summer to see the place transformed – the orchard, the vegetable garden, the plants, and buying some of her wares. I am posting several pictures here: left to right, top to bottom, the “model” squirrel (as founder of maple sap), the maple sap-sicle, trees and tubing, walking back up to the sugar house, the garden spot, and the Curmudgeon
standing outside the gift shop. Jan mentioned that they do not lock the gift shop – if they’re not home folks come in, get what they want, hide the money and then call and leave a message to tell them where to find the cash! And I neglected to say these are not thirty-somethings… Jan told us she is 62. And she loves what she’s doing. It's well worth making a visit!