Over the next two days (Saturday and Sunday), we have something in town called, “The Hebron Maple Festival.” Now, I say we like I have something to do with it. In actuality, spanning my almost five years of living in this town, I haven’t experienced an ounce of festivity.
It’s my fault. Even though I was raised to enjoy nice things as they dangle before my nose, I rarely do. It’s almost as if I think I’m too good for them. I’m sure it’s leftover sentiment from my teen years when I thought I was too good for everything. Which is strange, because every time I do get out there to enjoy something, I have fun. Perhaps I’m a stick in the mud.
Well, no more. I’ve been told, in no uncertain (very friendly) terms, that either this Saturday or Sunday, I am to visit not one, not two, but maybe three “exhibits” in the area that have to do with this year’s Maple Festival. We just took a drive down the road to skedaddle for a house showing and we passed by a whole line of Maple trees with buckets hanging from their bases, so I am actually excited about the prospects.
Every so often we get one of those free newspapers delivered with the mail. I usually chuck them in the recycling bin, but lately Laura has been keeping them to use for packing. Since we’ve been saving them, they somehow get opened on the kitchen table and just this week, we went over what activities were supposed to take place this weekend. My stick in the mud self even looked over the list and saw some events I might be interested in. I wouldn’t mind stopping by the Country Carpenters’ Barn for some woodworking and wood turning demonstrations. They also engage in elusive blacksmith operations, so I’d like to take pictures of that. But I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the Revolutionary War Encampment demonstrations as well. I’ve never done that and I think perhaps it’s time.
In years past, I’ve heard about places to watch syrup being made at local sugar houses and this year’s no different. We have Wenzel Sugar House, Woody Acres Sugar House, and Pierce’s Sugar House to choose from. This is probably tops on my list, but capturing daring video of a Revolutionary War Encampment wouldn’t be bad either.
Whatever we do, I’m sure we’ll take plenty of video and pictures. I hope to make good use of my time because now that I’ve whet your appetite for the whole thing, I’d surely be disappointed if I didn’t do a good job.
Update: please read and browse my photos below. I decided to post everything on the same page to make life easier.
The Wenzel Sugar House
March 17, 2013
Today was an excellent day. The sun was (and still is) shining and the weather was warm at a brisk 31 degrees. I swear they said it going to be higher than that, but I’ll take the sun over temperature any day.
So, we hit the Hebron Maple Festival for the first time ever. Now, this isn’t a festival like you think it’d be. It is kind of, in the way they had tents set up down in town, but it isn’t because much of the good stuff is spread out across various properties in the region. Since we aren’t ones for congregation, we chose to drive around and see what was offered more privately.
I have three posts for you. This is the first one. The next is shorter and the last is the longest. Be sure to read them all – I’ll link around the best I can to make things easier.
We woke up nice and early – around 7:30. We had a lot to do and I wanted to beat the crowds. We were driving down Rt.66 yesterday evening and saw a long row of cars all lined up down the road in front of one of the other sugar houses. I wanted to avoid this, so we showed up right at 10, when they were ready to have us.
The first thing we saw when we arrived was a large pen with quite the grandiose cow in it. Looked like a nice cow too, so I got started taking pictures of it. As I was down on my knees snapping away and taking video, I heard a camera next to my ear doing the same thing. That was my partner in crime doing the same thing. We have been waiting for a day like today to vent our frustration at the lousy weather. With the sun shining like it was, we took things out with our cameras.
After we took a bunch of pictures, we walked around a bit. I was like, “Where’s the syrup?” I mean, that’s the only reason I was there. I never saw a real sugar house in operation before and I really wanted to check one out. The animals were nice and all, but I wanted syrup.
We started poking our noses around and saw a table with some literature on it.
The table had empty ice cream and milk containers on it, along with some paperwork on various farms in the area. I remember reading one that said, “How to be a good neighbor to a farmer in ten minutes.” Something like that. It’s good because I recall having a conversation with one of the local farmers last year. He told me that their specific fertilizer problem wasn’t because they applied too much to the plants, it was due to runoff from neighboring lawns. That surprised me because if the adjacent properties knew of their effect, they may think twice about what they’re doing.
Anyway – where’s the syrup? Literature is nice, but I wanted to see what I came to see.
We looked around a bit more and finally saw a sign that read, “Sugar House Up On Hill.” Ahh, off we went.
We walked up the hill, not too far, and came across a small shed with steam coming out of the roof. “Yeah, this is it,” I said. We went inside to see what was causing all that steam.
When we got inside, we saw a large oven type thing with two fellas standing next to it talking. I could tell they were having fun – after all, it’s the Hebron Maple Festival that only comes once a year. This was their time to shine. Cool guys. We talked to them and I asked them if I could take some pictures of their operation. I told them I was going to put them on my “blog” and they were only too happy to help out. One of them even opened the oven to fill it with wood for me. I love that stuff.
I really enjoyed watching the process and was surprised at how simple it is. I’m sure the proprietors of this business could fill me in on all the intricacies of what goes on, but really, it’s just boiling the water out of the Maple tree sap. All the sweetness you taste in real Maple syrup is natural. Nothing else added.
As I walked around the room looking at the interesting things, I found a display I (actually, some of these are Laura’s pictures) thought you’d like to see. Check out the name brands on the shelf and then look at their actual Maple syrup content. Then, look for the word “Maple” of their labels. Doesn’t say it. I think one of them says something like, “Includes Real Maple Syrup,” but none of them contain much of anything besides sugar and water. I got a kick out of that.
When we were finished inside, we headed outside to see the sap tanks and stuff like that. I got a picture of the holding tanks and one of the steam coming through the vent hole in the roof. Laura said she liked the moss on the shingles and I found that interesting as well.
Take a good look at the two pictures above because I’ve got a funny story about them. Apparently, the two animals in them are in love. Well, at least one of them is.
The goat and the calf were once in a pen together.
When we first arrive, a few of the people working there took the calf out of the pen with the goat in it and put it in the pen with the cow. The goat didn’t like this too much and proceeded to stick his head through the pen he was left in and drag it across the lawn. We suspect he was trying to get to the calf. People stopped it and cleaned up the mess the goat caused. You know, dragging hay all over the place and stuff like that.
Later on and after we got back from the sugar house, we noticed that the goat was now switched with the calf – the goat was over in the larger pen with the cow and the calf was back in the smaller pen. I’m not sure whoever switched them understood the motivation of the goat, because after a few minutes of being in that pen, he stuck his head through its wall and almost knocked the whole thing over. This ain’t no small pen either – I think it was one of those heavy corrals.
The next thing we know, the goat had busted loose and started running towards the calf, who wasn’t more than twenty feet away, just standing there looking all appealing to the goat. Now Ned, the guy who helps out down at another farm on Rt.85 (I was talking to him too), starts yelling, “Uh oh – the goat’s loose!” He started running after the goat to catch him. Once the goat figured out what Ned was trying to do, the goat started zigging and zagging. He was bobbing and weaving, successfully avoiding Ned in his entirety. Then, the goat looked right at me and started running in my direction.
I kicked it into high gear. Mind you, this was obviously one smart goat and fast to boot. Apparently, the goat wasn’t smart or fast enough, because after some bobbing and zagging of my own, I caught the goat.
Surprising – no applause or anything. People just stood there and stared. I figured after something like that, people would give a guy some credit. Laura was happy though and she was lucky enough to leave with a hero.
Next up, Wells Sugar House. But don’t scroll down before watching this video.
Wenzel Sugarhouse In Hebron, CT
The Wells Sugar House
March 18, 2013
This next stop was much shorter than the first. Since we had already seen what a sugar house was all about, we were pretty much only interested in differences between the two.
The Wells Sugar House is very nice. It’s located up on Cone Road in Hebron – an area that we’ve never been before. We were surprised at it’s upstate feel. Had we known it was so nice up in this area, I’m sure we would’ve hung out there more in the past five years.
When we arrived at Wells, we had to drive down a long driveway in between two other houses. Their setup is located far off the main road, which was nice because parking was good and the noise was low. It’s a very decent piece of property.
This sugar house was larger than the last. They had a small table set up to sell syrup, candy and things like that. We purchased some Maple Syrup Sugar. It came in a larger spice container and tastes remarkable. All it is really is Maple syrup boiled down all the way until it’s dry. Then, it’s scraped up and put into containers. Tastes just like syrup.
I like looking at the machinery behind the operation, so I did a lot of checking out at this sugar house. Since the evaporator was more in view than the last place, I was able to get better pictures of it.
And Laura took some nice photos of the interior ambiance. Since she typically uses anything other than our wide-angle lens, I think she’s going to focus on the close-ups from now on. I can’t get them with the lens I use and they are important to our mix of photos.
After doing what we had to do in the sugar house, we walked around the property for a few minutes. We noticed a bunch of sap buckets hanging from Maple trees and got a great picture of one of them.
Lastly, on our way out of the driveway, Laura grabbed a picture of the Wells Sugar House sign.
Wells Sugar House – Hebron, CT – Hebron Maple Festival
March 23, 2013
Yes folks, the long awaited final Hebron Maple Festival post has arrived. I apologize for the delay, but along with some other stuff getting in the way, this post has more pictures to it, coupled with five videos. Editing them didn’t take too long, but you know, uploading and all that..enough with the excuses.
Our last stop during the Hebron Maple Festival this past weekend was at a nice place called Country Carpenters. Now, just to let you know, I’ve been driving by this establishment for just about five years. It’s butt up against the pellet place and close to town, but alas, I’ve never had a reason to visit. Well, until this past weekend.
Country Carpenters is a very nice outfit. It’s probably one of the few remaining “real” carpentry companies out there. They build post and beam structures that are really top notch. I had a chance to get up close and was impressed. Take a look at their website – look at what they do and realize what a rarity they are.
There were a few features at Country Carpenters this past Sunday. There was blacksmithing, wood turning, candle dipping, carving, woodworking and more. We toured the buildings and watched the demonstrations. Actually, after visiting this event, I’m not sure what I liked the best – this or the sugar houses.
I’m going to post the pictures and video below. Instead of me rambling on and on about what happened, you can simply see for yourself. Enjoy.
Village Blacksmith Shop at Country Carpenters
Wood Turning at Country Carpenters – Hebron Maple Festival
Chili Bob Whatley In Hebron, CT
Wood Carving at Country Carpenters – Hebron Maple Festival
Woodworking During the Hebron Maple Festival