Despite the impending snow, it certainly felt like March today ... gray, drizzly, and mild. It's been nice to have the windows cracked open, for the breeze is kinder than it was a month ago. The woods are damp with snowmelt and lively with birdsong. Newly sprung from its frosty pen, the earth smells - well - earthy. However removed we are from nature in our everyday life, we know in our bones, spring is near.
Here in New England, March means maple sugaring time. We don't have any sugar maples on our property, but if the storm clears out in time, we are planning to attend a local sugaring demonstration this weekend! I can hardly wait - I cannot believe I have lived practically my entire life in New England and I have never been to a sugaring demonstration. I thought the experience would make a nice entry in our nature notebooks.
So today we kicked off our maple study on a rather (sugar) high note. While I prepared delicous maple cupcakes, we played the Maple Leaf Ragg and we talked about trees in general, in light of their role as a natural resource.
We began with a quick brainstorm: How do trees help us?
- shelter (for animals)
- maple syrup!
Here are the cupcakes on our "display" table, as well as a few books for the week. (I also made note that the table is made of maple!) On the far left is a page from An American Celebration: The Art of Charles Wysocki; it shows an old-fashioned maple sugaring scene. In fact, you can see it in the Amazon "look inside." (Grandma Moses, Tasha Tudor and Eastman Johnson also have done sugaring scenes.)
Here's a cupcake a bit closer up; I held it near the window so you could see it better. :)
And here's the page from my March 2006 journal where I saved this recipe from Country Living last year. This shows how the cupcakes are supposed to look. Mine are not as smooth or pretty, but if I may so, they tasted awfully good. ;)
We'll see what else develops after our "field trip" this weekend. We'll take lots of pictures of course - though I think it will be too cold and slushy to do much sketching while we're there. I wish we had a sugar maple we could visit year round as is suggested in the Handbook of Nature Study. It is the perfect time of year to "adopt" a tree - and watch it grow through the seasons.
If you're interested in learning more about maple sugaring, you might check out any of the titles I have listed in my Early Spring Basket on the righthand sidebar. (Still to add: The Big Tree and Ox-Cart Man). The Handbook has a wonderful Maple Sugaring chapter, and Project Seasons has many interesting activities (including maple math!). There is also an incredibly complete unit study I found online here.
And, if you are intrested in making the maple cupcakes, the link for the recipe is here.
Very yummy! :)