Maple Farm Field Trip

            As a kid growing up in western Massachusetts, tapped maple trees and maple farms seemed to be everywhere.  Visiting maple sugar houses, and learning about the process of making maple syrup and sugar, were some of my favorite school field trips. 

     Living a significant shift away from that area now, maple farms are not as common around here. But this was yet another field trip I really wanted to take our kiddos on.   We almost arranged one out where I grew up, but the timing of getting out there would have risked missing the end of the season this year.  So I found Matfield Maple Farm, less than an hour from us, and we went on a beautiful day! It almost felt wrong from the get-go, with no snow on the ground though!  And that was not the only change in the picturesque scenes I have carried in my fond memories of maple sugaring. But I was still excited for the kids to learn all about today’s process of maple sugaring farms.

My visual memories of the maple tapping season are very much like this:

     Metal pails on trees, catching the pure sap from the taps that were put into them. And always, as I recall, snow on the ground.   After all, one of the best parts of our class trips, was eating syrup on snow, inside the sugar house!  Maple tapping season is the few weeks of the tail of winter, and first weeks of spring, when the nights are still cold, but the days are warmer.  That’s when the sap starts flowing. But in western MA, near the Berkshires, we always got so much snow in the winter in those years, it simply had not all melted yet, come maple sugaring season.

MY have things changed.  Not only are winters not as true as they used to be throughout the season , but maple trees being tapped for  sap at many farms, now look like this:

     They are drilled and tapped much the same way, but tubes run connecting one tree to another, with all of the sap from all of the trees, running to one place.  I realize it’s more time efficient, and time is money after all. But I must say, I really miss the charm of good old fashioned pails on maple trees. 

     Watching and learning the whole process of how maple sap is collected, and boiled down into pure maple syrup, was still something I wanted my kids to see for themselves.  But I really hoped it would be just like how I learned about it, and I was looking forward to taking photos of the pails on the trees!  I did have an idea this farm used the more modern method, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. But I was hoping. They did say they also tap with pails, but we didn’t happen to see any. 

     Still, we were very much enjoying our trip, and it sure was a beautiful day for one.  Saturday was when the touring was, so Daddy/Michael was able to come too. It was a family field trip!


      We had a chuckle at their cute sugar shack sign.  We’d recognize that shape anywhere!  Clever, recycling a basketball backboard into a sign! We  just love little family run businesses, and we always do all we can to support them, because we know all about having a little dream, and trying to make it work.


     The kids fed the llamas, while a small crowd of us waited for the tour guide. {JM} was gathering clovers on the ground to feed them too.

    Soon, the owner/tour guide, and his daughter led us out into the woods, as he started telling us about the maple farm.


     The first stop was this natural spring. Do you see how vibrantly green that grass is?  The guide told us that is there even through the winter snow, because of the spring there. Imagine how pretty that must be. BUT….no snow for us! ; )


     We were all offered to get a drink, and taste the fresh spring water. So I told one of my boys, who was going up first, that I wanted to get a photo of him getting some water. But all I got a bum shot!



     Thankfully I have other kids, and got another chance.


     We moved on, following each other on these wood-board paths. 

     A couple of times, we all had to duck under sap lines.  I personally thought of doing the limbo, but didn’t want to show off. ; )


     Next we stopped at the 450 gallon gathering tank, where all the lines run to.  Here, the guide told us about the easiest way to know what trees to tap.  They go out scouting trees in the warmer weather, and mark the maples, when the trees have leaves.  That is when they can quite obviously tell which trees are of the maple variety.  As opposed to the winter / early spring, when it’s harder to tell which are which.   See the jug down by his feet? In it was a little treat for us all.




He passed out little sampling cups, and poured us all some pure maple sap, straight out of the trees. If you have never seen or tried it, maple sap looks just like water, and tastes almost as refreshing, with just a hint of sweet.  Sap straight from the sugar maple tree is about 98 percent water and 2 percent sugar, as well other nutrients, and minerals.  Maple syrup is derived by boiling it all down to the point where the process of evaporation leaves only about 33 percent of water and 67 percent sugar. 


     Do you know what this is? It’s called Skunk Cabbage. He broke off a piece for us to smell, but recommended we don’t let it touch our nose, whilst sniffing!  It’s named well. It stinks terribly! 


 A poison Oak tree, evidences by the poisonous vine plant climbing it.



     Back at the sugar shack, we all learned more about the process of boiling down the sap to the right consistency.  This is a wood burning boiler, bringing the sap to the boiling point of 212 degrees.  When it does boil, the steam rises up out of the sugar shack, and the syrup gets thicker and sweeter.



     To the right of this shot is the pre-heating waiting area.  As it is moved into the boiling area, and getting to increasing thickened consistencies, it is moved over to the next holding well. 


     We found it interesting that it takes 40 gallons of maple tree sap, to make one single gallon of maple syrup!


      Samples of the finished product were shared with us as well. The kids were sure to get their own little cup, and immediately began asking about plans to have pancakes for dinner.  Honestly, there is no comparison between pure maple syrup, and the ‘syrup’ for pancakes that they sell at the grocery store, which is actually made of corn syrup!


     Another favorite part of field trips is always the gift shop! Here, what they sold was right behind us right there in the sugar shack, on some shelves.  Of course they sold pure maple syrup in fancy bottles, and there was some maple sugar candy as well, which is made by bringing the boiling process even further, removing an even higher percentage of water, until the sugar starts to crystallize. (I think.)

    A quick funny story about maple sugar candy:  As a kid on maple sugar house field trips, I always spent my spending money on buying maple sugar candy for my father.Every time. And I’d be so excited to give it to him, because I was under the impression he really loved it.  Then about a year or so ago he and I were discussing maple sugar houses, and I found out he hates maple sugar candy!  He says it’s far too sweet for him. But it just goes to show you how happy he pretended to be, so as not to hurt my feelings as a kid. (Thanks, Dad. : ) 

     I didn’t buy him any candy this time.


     We thought these bird houses were cute too. 


      The kids had a great time, as you can tell by the smiles on their faces.


     On the way home, we stopped lakeside, and ate our nice picnic lunch with the swans.


     It was a wonderful day, and along with the memories, we brought home a bottle of pure maple syrup. Chosen not only for it’s contents, but of course for the fabulous bottle, with an embossed maple leaf in the glass!  I already have ideas of what I can do with it, for detail home decor come Autumn.  But before then, we have many pancakes and waffles to eat, drizzled with our pure maple syrup! 

      A planned meal for that night was quickly kicked to the curb, and we satisfyingly filled ourselves with blueberry pancakes. It was the kid’s first maple sugar house trip, but it won’t be their last! We will be getting to a maple sugar farm in the next couple of years, that still does things the good old fashioned way! But this place was still worth the trip, and no doubt the memories and lessons will be as sticky as the syrup on their plates.

     I know not everyone lives in the right climate, but have you all been to a maple sugar shack lately? Did they use the old or new method, and what your thoughts on the two? We’d enjoy it if you shared.



JFK Library & Museum / Field Trip

I’m a planner.  I plan everything.  Call me not-very-fun, but there is not much I do spontaneously.  Especially when it involves, like…..a whole day. Or traveling a small distance.  Or worse……changing plans I already planned!

So when a friend of mine sent me a message one bright and early morning not long ago, asking if we’d all be up for a trip into Boston, to visit the John F. Kennedy Library & Museum that day….well, I started having heart palpitations, and immediately started brainstorming excuses to say no.  For examples:  I had a full day of lessons planned!  The kids had a test.  My camera battery wasn’t charged! (My gosh!  I can’t take a field trip without taking photos!  How would I blog it?!)  And honestly… I had work to do after schooling the kids!   And…and….I hadn’t planned, on going to the JFK Library & Museum!   I can’t just TAKE OFF like that!

All of those things were the truth.  But it was also true, that going to the JFK Library & Museum, had been on our field trip agenda, for at least a year, and we just hadn’t gotten to that one yet.  And my oldest  daughter {A}, had been nagging me about it all-365-days, (or it’s seemed like it anyway), because she’d been dying to go.  Beggin’. She has a deep and peculiar passion, for American History, for a 13 year old girl. She loves to learn about past U.S. Presidents, and especially has a keen interest in the Kennedy family.  My camera battery could charge in an hour.  Also,  my friend’s kids had a 1/2 day of (charter) school, and therefore would be out early, so that’s why it was a perfect weekday for them to go, with us.  But the truth of all truths was… could turn out to be one fun and exciting day, if I could just wrap my brain around <gasp> changing plans, last minute.

Well, it was, and I DID IT!!!

It actually turned out to be a very, very interesting trip.  Downright fascinating, at times.  It blows me away, because I could have cared less about American History when “I” was in formal school growing up, on top of several other subjects.  Or, all of them. (Except art of course!).   But I just love, love, love schooling now. As I always say, “I’m being re-schooled”, while I school my kids. And I thank God they are loving it, the first time around!  Because 13+ years is a dang-long-time, when you don’t like school! (Ask me!)

So…..let me show you some of the things that we got to see on our field trip, and intriguing things we got to learn more about, at the JFK Library & Museum.

THIS….Is John F. Kennedy’s high school report card/transcript!    But here is what is sooooo interesting.  If you look closely, you will see…..


…..He got a D in his Sophmore year!!  IN HISTORY!  Did you know this?  Because it’s quite a shocking revelation, to me!  Now, {A} is a little upset with me, that I’m telling you about this.  She says, “But Mama!  He really loved History though!  He did!”.  And she’s concerned I am embarrassing him.  To which I replied, “Well, Honey, you know…come on.  He’s dead.”  And also, “It’s in a public museum!  I think more people blow through that place, than my little ole’ blog, in a day. Don’t you?”. Because I just feel the need to tell you all!  I find this little tid-bit of info shocking, but also encouraging, to children everywhere!!  As I see it, if a kid can get a D in History, and go on to be the President of the United States, there is hope for anyone!

(She’s in the kitchen right now mumbling, “Poor Jack.”)


Check out the appliances of those times.  My three 8 year olds just stood and stared through the window here, dumb-founded.


This display really got me.  As an educated graphic and package-designer, all I can say is….it is really no wonder, why the decade following the 60’s, involved tie-dyed shirts, and psychedelic-color-inducing drugs.   I mean, I do understand there was printing limitations, and limited inks to work with then.  But goodness…..what horrid looking packaging. It all looks the same!  Honestly, I had to walk away, as depression was setting in.


We had a great tour guide.  She popped in and out, as we made out way through the place, giving us more info here and there.


There are mini theaters there in the museum, and we watched two very interesting films.   I can say that in my own experience of watching these films, I was able to really feel more connected to exactly who JFK was.  To see him in motion, and hear him speak, in his own words, was…fascinating, and mesmerizing.  He had a great voice!  I’m going to link you to some of the film at the end of this post, so you can experience it yourself.  In case, you know, you’re as young as I am. ; )


A mock set-up of (one of?) his campaign offices.  I desperately wanted to take the desk, and the chair. And maybe the door knobs.

Possibly the hanging light fixture, also.

The pavilion, was a cool place to be.  All glass and steel-work, overlooking part of the Boston Harbor.  To think, that JFK and his siblings’ great-great grand-parents, had at one time sailed right by here on their arrival to the United States from Ireland, in 1849, because of the “black potato famine”.



Our crew of kids.

Here, a replica of the desk in the Oval Office.  It was interesting to note, that the little door under the front of the desk, that JFK Jr. was later photographed playing behind, was put in to hide Franklin D. Roosevelt’s leg braces.  They felt that, when photographing him at his desk, it may appear that the President of the U.S., was weak.   (Nice.)

Also interesting to note:  My flash went off when taking this photo of the desk, and I got in trouble.   Once a rebel, always a rebel! ; )


Call me ‘Silly’.  But this is my favorite shot of the day.  RFK’s glasses.

I actually took the shot, through glass.

Bet your impressed now.


They are on his  desk, shown more below. Robert was appointed Attorney General, when his brother was President.

It was cool to read all of the documents and notes lying about the desktop.  And laugh at the phone.


RFK’s Dept. of Justice badge, and the football that the Dallas Cowboys gave to Robert, because the Kennedy’s loved the game so much, and were known to play.

I have to be honest here…..some of these details I am not actually remembering all on my own.  {A} is over my left shoulder, dictating some stuff to me.  Lol.  Just keeping it truth, People!

A bit of Jacqueline Kennedy’s wardrobe.  On the right is her Inaugural Ball gown.


THIS, I do remember on my own.  I did not know, that Jacqueline (Bouvier) Kennedy was a photographer!  In a round-a-bout way, it was through her photo-journalism work, that she met her future husband, JFK.  I was saying to myself, out loud, “Well I’ll be a blue-nosed gopher.”  And someone said, “……What?!”

The baby with us loved this purse.  He kept saying “Ooooo!!” (Short O sound.)   It was rather eye catching!


These are ‘doodles’ of JFK’s from a meeting during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In the top-right, you can see where he wrote and circled several times, “Missile. Missile. Missile.”


News publications from over the years.

The polls.

There was another little room we went through, that was dark, and just had a few tv screens going.  Airing, was the news broadcast footage, of when JFK had been shot.  I can only imagine, having been born and grown enough then, to understand what was happening at that time.  Because the heavy feeling we all had in that room.  All silent, staring at the monitors, some with a tear rolling down our cheek.   I guess it’s the closest we’ll ever feel, to having been there.


Oh how I would have LOVED to have taken this portrait!!  {A} walked up to this, and named every person in it, from left to right. As easy as counting, for her.    This portrait was taken, when Joe Sr. was Ambassador to England, and they were in London.   What a great photo.

Oh…what to say here.  Funny, but this vision of {A} doesn’t seem that far-fetched. You’ve got to know her, if you don’t.  She’s only 13 now, but she’s really into politics, government, and planning her future!  Let’s just say, she’s got a few things she wants to say, and a few things she wants done.

She’s got a dream.


We all had such a good time, and learned so much, here at the JFK Library & Museum.

We highly recommend this attraction, if you are ever in the Boston area.

Here’s a great little still film clip on JFK we really enjoyed.

I was really glad my friend called, and I’m so spontaneous.

So…..Did you enjoy this post?  Did you learn anything new?

Please share your thoughts with us.



Boston Museum of Science / Field trip

One of our first field trips of this new school year, was to the Boston Museum of Science.  {JM, O & S} are at that age now, where I knew they would really benefit from going, on an educational level. {A}, of course, has been an appropriate age for some time, and she found many areas of interest that she enjoyed learning more about.

We left home early in the morning.  I have to add, that I had decided I was not going to lug my big camera equipment around…because that was one of the reasons why we got {A} the Canon point and shoot for her birthday, right? But I have to tell you…it was hard!  I felt like I was leaving one of my children behind! I was walking to the car in the drive-way as we left, asking myself…can I really do this?  I made myself leave it home, and I worked on learning how to work this little thing better.  And I’m still working on it. I’m an all manual girl for sure.

Anyway, we were there until late afternoon.  This museum really is a place where you could spend at least2, maybe even 3 days at, to really enjoy it to the fullest, and not miss anything. Thankfully, we live close enough that we’ll be going again soon.  The planetarium here at the Boston Science Museum, is currently under construction until early 2011.  So we’ll be returning to see that when it re-opens. Especially because the little ones are studying Astronomy this year.  But we certainly filled our day taking in all we could, enjoyed every moment expanding our knowledge on a variety of subjects, and having fun while we learned!

This very large scale grasshopper model displayed the internal parts of the insect, and their function.  It was interesting to see the muscles of their legs, which are quite powerful in relation to their size.  They can jump up to 20 times the length of their own body.


A real highlight of our trip, was this educational exhibit on electricity.  The scientist was extremely knowledgeable and held our attention for sure.  His ‘science lab’ was intriguing, as he explained a variety of facts.

We were often advised to protect our ears for certain demonstrations where the electrical currents were very loud.  The kids were getting a little upset with me, because I kept uncovering my ears in order to take photos. But I got a shot with an electrical current like I wanted! Cool, huh?

These 2 guys were sure they were stronger than a AA batteries.  But this demonstration proved them wrong. They were sorry they volunteered their manhood strengths, because the magnetic force that was created here, won in the end.

I was talking to my cousin’s middle school boy this past weekend (smart little fella), who took a field trip here when he was in 5th grade.  He mentioned one of the highlights for his class was the electricity demonstration here too.  They saw a couple different demos than we did this day.

The kids very all excited for this space exhibit, since they are currently learning all about astronomy.   So this area in the following photos was very educational for them, and really brought to life so much of what they have been studying.

Inside the spaceship capsule, watching an educational video about the space shuttle.

This contraption was something else.  There was so much it did.  Engineering at it’s best.  It was so much fun to watch it work.

As we looked at it, and watched the intricate and clever functions of it all, I thought to myself, “I can see {JM} building something like this, someday.”

No sooner did I think that, did he ask me to take his photo in front of it.  He was grinning from ear to ear, and I could see his wheels turning.  I think he was inspired.

I loved this wall.

But this was the highlight of the trip, for ME.  When I ever came around the corner, and saw this… heart was all a-flutter!….

An old school house!  I know they around here and at Sturbridge Village, my cousin reminded me.  I haven’t been there since I was very little, and I don’t remember anything there. (That’s another planned trip for us!).  But I was very excited to be able to see this one, and GO IN!!

I was smitten, with every nook, cranny, and detail.


And I couldn’t resist playing teacher!


Thankfully I even had willing students, to play along and amuse me!!  Their clothing was all wrong, but I didn’t care.


So was mine.  But I was having fun.  Michael was taking photos of my antics, left and right.  I was glad I had on one on his shirt for this shot….so no one could see my mom jeans.  ; )

Just kidding.

{O}, pretending to write.

Check out the desk.  Michael reminded me that we have an old school desk his parents gave him, when they moved from this area some years ago.  I forgot about that!!  I’m going to find it, and maybe bring it upstairs and put it in our school room. : )


THERE’S the pencil sharpener I remember.


I didn’t easily leave the school house area!  As we stepped out and I looked at it from a little ways, I started to have crazy thoughts.  Out loud.  Like…”You know Michael, I bet you could build me one of these fairly easily.”  And to my surprise, he didn’t even chuckle.  He asked me where we would put it.  Huh.  Oh…..I’ll find a spot.


I loved this display.  It slowly turned.

Behind it was a whole room of taxidermied animals!  As we explained to {JM, O & S} about what taxidermy is, the process, and when and why it is done, they were wide-eyed!!  We couldn’t help but laugh.  I remember being about their age, and trying to wrap my brain around it all, when I learned this little fact of life, too.  They were so cute.

{A} knew about taxidermy, but she said she found seeing the stuffed animals here very interesting anyway, because it gave her an accurate scale of the size of the animals.  For example, we saw a Grizzly Bear and a Black Bear side-by-side, and she was surprised to see how much larger the Black Bear was.  She always assumed Grizzly Bears were the larger.

Naturally, having spent so many hours there, I took so many photos.  Below here is a gallery of more we’d like to share with you of all we saw and some of the other things the kids experienced and observed, if you are interested in flipping through them.  There are brief descriptions where needed for some of the photos.

It was a great trip, to a really great museum, for all of us.  We look forward to returning there within this school year again, to see the planetarium, and have another day studying the world of science (all of God’s Creation), history, mathematics and social studies.

Have you ever visited the Boston Museum of Science?  If so, what part of your visit did you like best?

Thanks for reading along and following some of our home schooling adventures we chronicle here.  We’re glad you stopped by.