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Maple Sugar Time at Indiana Dunes!

by Flo Lawnicki
   The National Park Service hosts the event at Chellberg Farm. Maple Sugar will be held March 7th and 8th in 2020.

     Chellberg Farm once belonged to Swedish immigrants Anders and Johanna Chellberg, who arrived in Northwest Indiana in 1863.  They purchased the 40 acres of land to establish the farm in 1869 and added forty additional acres five years later.  The property contains a sugar grove that the family began tapping in the 1930’s for maple syrup production.  

     The farm stayed in the family until 1972 when Carl Chellberg sold the property to the National Park Service making the national lakeshore the only National Park Service unit that makes maple syrup.  Did you know the world’s supply of maple syrup all come from Northeastern North America?  Quebec and Vermont lead in production.  Maple Sugar Time takes attendees on a visual tour of maple sugaring and gives a glimpse into how it’s evolved over the years. From the Native Americans to the pioneers, and on into modern methods.

     I spotted a Mother Wilma’s Marshmallow Factory food truck supplying hot drinks as we were walking up to begin the tour.  Of course, we stopped…priorities!!! This food truck makes everything from scratch using local and organic ingredients. My husband and I each got a gourmet hot chocolate with maple marshmallows.  I was an instant fan and will be following them to see where they pop up next.  A nice treat to enjoy during our tour as it was a wee bit chilly outdoors.

      Our Ranger Tour Guide

     At the onset of our tour, we were made aware of the effects that climate change is having on the maple tree.  Research data indicates that the trees are migrating north because it’s getting warmer here.  The maple sugaring season has been starting earlier than it did some 40 years ago and the duration has lessened by 10%.  Groves can migrate some 60 miles per century.  Maple trees drop seeds that are carried away by wind and animals. If the seeds find a suitable environment, the maple tree grows and thrives. 

Some of the things that we can do to slow down this process include:
 Using Alternate Fuels, Recycle, Use Earth Friendly Products.

Time to try some of the sap from the tree. 
     The sap was so clear that I wasn’t sure if I was tasting water or maple sap.  It wasn’t sweet at all.  I learned that sap from the tree is 99% water and only a small portion turns into syrup.  It takes 40 gallons of sap to get 1 gallon of maple syrup. The sugar content is about 2%, after the boiling process the content is 66% sugar; you then have pure maple syrup.

The following is an evolution of getting the maple sap to syrup.

     Native Americans discovered maple sap.  Since it has the consistency of water, it is believed that they mistook it for water seeping from the maple tree and cooked with it, leading to the realization of its sweetness.  They used fire, wood, clay pots and rocks.  The rocks were heated in the fire and then used to stir the sap eventually boiling out the water.  That had to be the longest process!

     The Maple Sugar event was enlightening as well as a lot of fun.  I knew absolutely nothing about maple tapping or the process of making syrup.  Both my husband and I gained a greater appreciation for the product and the work that goes into supplying it.  Now I understand why it costs a bit more in stores.  Especially considering that the alternative is made up of mostly corn syrup.  Afterward, my husband stated that we’re only buying pure maple syrup henceforth.  No more pancake syrup consisting of mostly corn syrup. 

    Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity to visit during the event’s second weekend, March 11th and 12th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Oh, did I mention that this is a FREE event?  Chellberg Farm is open to the public during festivals, demonstrations, and ranger-guided tours. Check the Ranger Guided Program Schedule for days and times.  Flo Lawnicki, Blogger at Flo’s Favorites: Eat, Play, and Stay in the Midwest,
lake michigan indiana dunes hiking regional funDiscover More About the Indiana Dunes:

Chesterton European Market
Century of Progress Tour
Things to Do in Michigan City
Dunes Learning Center
Chesterton Art Center
Things To Do in Chesterton
Hunter’s Brewing – Chesterton
Indiana Dunes Becomes a National Park
Songbird Prairie Bed & Breakfast awarded “Best Romantic Getaway”

Chautauqua in the Dunes
Lake Michigan Beaches
Free Beach Shuttles at Indiana Dunes
Birding Festival (May)
Maple Sugar Time (Spring)
Visit Mount Baldy
Outdoor Adventure Festival (Fall)

Apples Festival (Fall)
Local Family Fun Amusement Parks


Sue Baxter