Flannels and Farm Markets

This weekend was one full of fun, flannel, and a fall farmer’s market! After being cooped up for a week or so with coughs and respiratory issues, we were able to get out of the house and have some adventures over the weekend.

We started strong on Saturday morning, by heading to Greenfield Village and hitting their Fall Farmer’s Market. I love this every year! So much to see and do and buy! It is not just fruits and vegetables sold at this one, they include traditionally made brooms, honey, soap, maple syrup, flowers, tea, coffee, chocolate, and homemade pasties to name a few.

And these dried flowers, candles, and smudge sticks are gorgeous! I have never smudged anything but I did recently read that apart from the whole bad energy thought behind it, that it actually can help eradicate germs in your house. Maybe that is the origin behind the idea? I might give it a whirl if it will help to cleanse my house of germs, especially in cold and flu season! These are from Anchored Roots and are sold at Grayes Greenhouse. I am always so tempted by all the lavender items on display but I try not to go crazy and buy it all. Lol. And that popcorn looked so lovely! We are reading Farmer Boy right now as a family read aloud, and in it Wilder describes popcorn as such an American food, and she is so right.

I am always in love with these brooms from Brooms by Henry. Handmade in the traditional ways, there is just something about them that I love. So I bought a hearth broom although I don’t have a hearth. I just really liked the twist in the handle and the craftsmanship of it. I really don’t know what I am going to do with it, but for now I have it hanging in my kitchen. We also always buy the maple syrup from Doodles Sugar Bush. This year we bought the Bourbon Maple Syrup and it is funny, we talked to my brother later and they had bought the same one while they were there! It is really good. Also pictured up there is wool from Aunt Bea’s place. It is made from sheep at their own farm, and they spin the wool themselves.

After shopping at the market, we walked around the farm at the village a bit, watching the hay get processed. They shake the seeds from the stalks, then it shoots out the other end and gets baled. It was pretty cool to watch. We also watched corn husk dolls being made, which was neat as well. We were told that they originated with the Native Americans, who made them after the corn harvest. We could have made one but we didn’t have any cash on us, just our debit card. I really need to start carrying a few dollars in my pocket! We were thinking we could still make them at home – and get the corn husks at a store where they sell tamale ingredients. Is that cheating? Lol.

After taking in the events at the village, we went home for a bit for lunch and because Wyatt kept asking to play. Lol. So we went home and chilled out before heading to an event called the Fire and Flannel Festival. Billy really wanted to see the big draw, the Jack Pine Lumberjack show. The Jack Pine Lumberjack show can usually be found in Mackinaw City, but they were here for the event and we had a great time watching! People were supposed to wear their flannels to the event, so it was good of the weather to sort of cooperate. Lol. It was the first year for this event, and while it was good, I think next year if the event planners stick more to the theme, it will be more fun, if that makes sense. Plus, it was in a parking lot instead of green space, and for some reason that bothered me. Lol. But, first year kind of stuff. I am sure they will work the details out as they move forward in the future. The Jack Pine Lumberjack show though was really fun! If you are ever in Northern Michigan and get the chance to see them, I definitely recommend it!

We spent the rest of the weekend being lazy, and even had pie for breakfast on Sunday! Coffee and pie warm from the oven on a chilly morning was a pretty perfect moment. I might have to do it again over the winter as a surprise for my guys!

A Maple Sugar Saturday

Growing up, I was a huge Little House on the Prairie fangirl. Not the show, but the books. (Little secret, I still reread them every year.) One of my favorite parts in Little House in the Big Woods is the Sugar Snow, when the whole family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, all get together and tap the trees for the sap to make maple syrup. There is snow and dancing and frivolity, and of course, fresh maple syrup served on top of fresh fallen snow. I have actually never tried that but I am sure back then it was a delicious treat. 
Our local Metropark system has maple sugaring events every year, and every year we miss them. I was bound and determined to get to one this year, and so Saturday morning, amidst snow flurries, we were over the river and through the woods to Oakwoods Metropark by the start of the program. One of our favorite interpreters was leading the event, which was cool, and when we got there, we learned we were the only people signed up for the early program. So our little family had our very own  private lesson.

Just our little badger boy enjoying the day out. 
We learned so much! A few quick facts that I thought were interesting:
  • It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. 
  • Maple trees have opposite branches, not alternating branches.
  • You can make maple syrup from Black Walnut trees, although it will be a little more bitter.
  • It actually isn’t a very complicated process; in fact, it is something you can do in your own backyard if you have a maple tree.
  • A grove of maple trees is called a sugarbush. 

Unfortunately, maple syrup production is at risk right now due to the springlike weather we have been having. It needs to be cold at night but warm during the day for the sap to flow. The cold temps cause the sugar content to rise, and with these warmer days, the syrup may turn bitter in flavor. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer real maple syrup to the manufactured versions. I can put up with a few more weeks of winter in order to have that delicious caramel taste of real maple syrup.
We also heard two very different Native American origin stories regarding maple syrup, as maple syrup was a staple of the Native American diet in this area. If you are interested, here is a link to the Ojibway legend of maple syrup. 
The program was about an hour long, and although we were the only ones there, Kevin did not hurry or skip any part of the program. Billy and I both found it very informative, and inspiring actually. We dream of homesteading one day, and maple syrup collection would be a fun addition to that dream. Overall, we had a great time, and ended up staying and sitting by the fire for a bit chatting. It was a nice way to start a day.
We learned so much more than I have related here, but I encourage you to check out a program if you have one near you. 
If you are in southeast Michigan, the Huron-Clinton metroparks seem to be doing a few more events. For more information on Michigan’s maple syrup industry, you can check out this page.