Wednesday, April 9, 2014

N.H. Maple Experience returns this summer, Springtime happenings at The Rocks

How sweet it was! Thanks to all of you who visited The Rocks during the 2014 New Hampshire Maple Experience. We hope you all had as much fun as we did learning about maple sugaring and exploring the farm.

If you missed the season – or just can’t wait until next year to return – don’t fret! Our self-guided New Hampshire Maple Experience returns to The Rocks July 1. The self-guided tour includes a walk along the Maple Trail and a visit to the sugarhouse and Maple Museum.

The Maple Trail begins at the main parking area of The Rocks and meanders along a grassy path through the forest, beside stone walls, and into the sugar orchard. Signs along the trail explain maple sugaring, from the earliest sugar makers and modern techniques to the tools of the trade and how to identify a sugar maple tree

The Maple Trail leads visitors to the sawmill/pigpen building, constructed in 1906 and artfully restored to serve as The Rocks’ sugarhouse and interactive Maple Museum, where visitors will learn more about the history and process of making maple sugar. (Read more about the intriguing history of The Rocks Estate here.) An arch between the sugarhouse and museum provides a stunning view of the Presidential Mountains.

There’s always something happening at The Rocks, and visitors are welcome in all seasons. Our trails are open daily, year-round. You’ll find more information about the trails here. We also host natural history discussions throughout the year, on a variety of topics. To see what’s happening, please check out our online calendar

We hope to see you soon at The Rocks Estate!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The first sugar makers: Discovering the history of maple syrup at the New Hampshire Maple Experience

Who were the first sugar makers? Long before European settlers arrived in New England, the native people of the region had discovered the sweet sap of the sugar maple trees growing here. There are various legends about how Native Americans discovered that the sap could be boiled into various forms of sugar.

These legends and the history and evolution of maple sugaring are just one part of the New Hampshire Maple Experience at The Rocks Estate, which takes visitors through tales and techniques of early sugar makers right through to tasting some fresh, sweet New Hampshire maple syrup!

The Maple Experience includes a trip to the Maple Museum, where visitors can see and touch some of the tools used through the centuries in the springtime ritual of sugar making. One of these is a long, hollowed-out log once used to cook the sap. Native Americans would pour the watery sap into the log and add hot stones from the fire to gradually cook the sap into a taffy-like maple sugar.
Hollowed-out log for cooking sap.

(See a video explanation of the early sugar making process here.) 

When the first settlers arrived, they observed the natives’ ways of maple sugaring and gradually added new tools and techniques to the process.

Today’s plastic tubing, reverse osmosis systems, and high tech evaporators are a far cry from the wooden spiles, hollow logs, and hot stones employed by the earliest sugar makers. But the end result is just as sweet!

This Saturday, April 5, is the final day of 2014 New Hampshire Maple Experience. We hope you’ll join us for hands-on learning and fun. To read more about the Maple Experience, visit our website. To make reservations for Saturday’s maple tours, please email info@therocks.org or call (603) 444-6228.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

For Bruce Streeter and his horses, wagon rides at the NH Maple Experience are all in a day’s work

Teamster Bruce Streeter and his horses have been pulling wagon loads of visitors around The Rocks Estate for the past 16 years. Bruce hauls his team north from Orford, New Hampshire, to pull the wagons during the busy Christmas tree season, the New Hampshire Maple Experience, and an occasional bus tour

Whatever the season, the huge draft horses are always a big draw for visitors to The Rocks. While our volunteers talk with visitors about the history and process of maple sugaring, Bruce's horses get plenty of pats on the nose. Bruce does his own sugaring on his farm in Orford, but most of the questions he fields at The Rocks are about his nearly-one-ton companions. Below, he shares some information about his horses and his work at The Rocks

Tell us about your horses.
They’re Belgian draft horses. Their names are Mike and Burt. I have another one, Bob, who I can use if I need to. Draft horse names aren’t typically very fancy. I like to keep ‘em short so they can understand it when I speak to them. They’re about 1850 pounds apiece. They’ll eat about 40 pounds of hay a day and about 10 pounds of grain each.

How did you get involved with working with draft horses?
I’ve been working with horses about 35 years. My dad logged with horses his whole life and I grew up with them. We log with them and sugar with them and do some of the farm work. We have the horses and a couple beef cows – and 2 to 10 kids, depending on how many neighbors are here.

What do you do, besides driving your team, when you’re at The Rocks for wagon rides?
They have a tour guide on every wagon, so most of the questions I answer are about the horses. I enjoy it. It’s a good time to get out and use your horses and talk to people about what draft horses can or can’t do. The programs at The Rocks have grown tremendously in the last 15 or 16 years. They’ve expanded to mail order trees. The maple program has become bigger.

What do you – and Mike and Burt – do when you’re not pulling wagons at The Rocks?
I have a full time logging business and use both horses and conventional logging equipment. Having both options is more versatile. I do get some landowners who request having horses instead of a machine, because it’s a much lower impact. It’s not as profitable. It takes longer to skid the wood out.
We also do sleigh rides during the winter at the ski area at Quechee Lakes in Vermont and do a lot of logging in the winter.
The horses are much better behaved when they’re working. I think they like to be active. Burt is 9 years old and Mike is 5. Draft horse will work until they’re about 20 years old, if they’re well taken care of and don’t get sick or get injured.

To learn more about Bruce and his horses and discover the sweet secrets of sugaring season, visit The Rocks for the New Hampshire Maple Experience, running weekends through April 5. For more information, visit the Maple Experience websiteTo make a reservation for a maple tour, call The Rocks at (603) 444-6228.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rocks Estate volunteer Sam Chase: Sharing sugaring secrets and history for 19 years

Hands-on maple learning with a Rocks Estate volunteer.
During any trip to The Rocks Estate – whether to find a perfect Christmas tree in December, discover the secrets of maple sugaring in March, or simply walk along the trails in any season – visitors are bound to learn something new. And if you visit during one of our programs, like the New Hampshire Maple Experience, our dedicated corps of volunteers will be there to guide your discovery.

One of our volunteers is Sam Chase, of Whitefield, NH. Sam discovered The Rocks in his retirement, and for the past 19 years he’s been sharing his knowledge about the history and process of maple sugaring, along with tidbits about the intriguing history of The Rocks Estate, and the Glessner family who built the Estate back in the late 1800s.

What keeps a volunteer coming back each season for nearly two decades? Read on to find out, in Sam’s words.

How did you get started as a volunteer at The Rocks?
I’ve been a guide at The Rocks since about 1994. During Christmas tree season, I’m a guide on the wagons. For the Maple Experience, I do the inside presentation on the history of maple sugaring.
There was a course offered at The Rocks back then, a general science course offered by The Rocks and Fish & Game. I’d retired and didn’t have much to do, and I was interested in the outdoors. If you agreed to volunteer for so many programs, they didn’t charge for the course. I’ve been volunteering ever since with The Rocks, and also with Fish & Game to do a series of programs they have aimed at 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in the area.

What has inspired you to keep coming back to The Rocks year after year?
I think The Rocks is just a great place to begin with. The whole setting is a lot of fun – the volunteers that work there, and Nigel (Manley, who manages the Estate). I guess that’s a big a part of going back.
One fun part about being involved as a volunteer is being able to tell people about the history of The Rocks. I think the whole thing and the way it got started in the late 1800s by the Glessner family and how it’s still going today is just really interesting.
I went to Chicago a few years back, and we saw Glessner’s place there and could tie it into here. His house is still there, on Prairie Avenue, which used to be “Millionaires’ Row.” They saved a lot of the furnishings and they had mapped it all and so could put it back the way it was when the Glessners lived there.

(To learn more about the history of The Rocks and the Glessner family, check out the history page of our website.)

Do you see return visitors at the Maple Experience each season?
Yes, and during the winter, too. I have people who have been coming back for 10 or 15 years, lots of family groups. We go through and test them to see how much they remember from their last visit.

What do you do when you’re not sharing stories and information with visitors at The Rocks?
I worked for a gas and electric company headquartered out in Syracuse, New York. My great grandfather left Whitefield with his two brothers and headed west in 1860 and got as far as Syracuse. My family kept a place up here – the family still owns the farm. It was divided up amongst the family. So, we came up here summers and in the late 1980s built a house here. When I retired, we decided to move here.
We have a lot of land, which I manage. I work in the garden, play with our two golden retrievers, do income taxes during the winter for the AARP program, and I’m on the board at Weeks State Park.
The crew of Rocks volunteers - Sam is the tall guy in the back.

To enjoy the hands-on New Hampshire Maple Experience and learn a bit about sugaring and The Rocks from our corps of volunteers, come for a visit this spring! The Maple Experience runs weekends through April 5th. For more information, please visit the New Hampshire Maple Experience website