Tag Archive | Maple syrup

MacKenzie Environmental Center Maple Syrup Festival


Mackenzie Center sign

Spring is here and we returned to MacKenzie to celebrate! It had been almost 4 years since our last visit and this event sounded like a lot of fun! Here is the itinerary of the day.

Maple Syrup Festival Events

We arrived at 9:30 and began with breakfast at the Lodge, the pancakes and ham were so delicious!  The real maple syrup really made it great!

Mackenzie Center Lodge

Mackenzie Lodge inside

During breakfast we got serenaded with some sugarin’ music by the Dark of the Moon Contra-Band.  Let’s listen in!

Dark of the Moon Contra-Band

After our delicious breakfast we went to the sugaring camp a short distance away.  Over 1000 people came to this event and about 700 had breakfast too.

The weather was rather interesting, it alternated between white out and sunshine, sometime both at the same time!

MacKenzie Sugaring Camp

Set up in the camp was a large portable Ho-Chunk Indian home called a Ciporoke, it was put to the test today with the high winds and it didn’t budge. It was constructed in January so it has stood most of the winter.

Ciporoke sign at MacKenzie

We went inside and learned more about it and saw some animal pelts and tools used by the Ho-Chunk.  A docent inside answered the questions from the many visitors, very interesting! Let’s listen in.

The views inside, tools and pelts on display.

Ciporoke inside at Mackenzie

Nearby were three large iron kettles boiling sap as they did in the late 19th century.  Another volunteer was showing the various products that can be made from sap.  Also a demo of carrying two buckets of sap using a yoke.

Iron Kettles Boiling Sap at Mackenzie

Carrying sap buckets

This part of the festival was real fun, eating ice cream topped with maple syrup made by an antique steam engine! Let’s see it in action!

Great ice cream too, cold and snow doesn’t stop Wisconsinites from enjoying that any time!

Vanilla Ice Cream and Syrup at Mackenzie

After our treat we visited the Maple Syrup finishing House, where larger quantities of sap were boiled than in the iron kettles. It was a wood-burning unit and it warmed the room nicely! On our first visit in 2012 was when we saw it cold.

Syrup Finishing House at Mackenzie

Syrup Finishing House at Mackenzie

Wallen Sugar House display at Mackenzie

Sap Tank at Mackenzie

Sap Tank at Mackenzie

We also learned pickles and syrup go well together, never know that!

Pickles and syrup

This was a real fun festival and we are so glad we were able to go this year!

Mackenzie Environmental Center in Poynette

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Mackenzie Center sign

Mackenzie Environmental Center in Poynette not only educates people of all ages, the place is just plain fun to visit!  It had been 4 years since our last visit so it was time for some updates.  The center includes wildlife rescues, trails and education classes. Also a game farm.  They always need volunteers, see their website, Friends of MacKenzie Environmental Center. Our most recent visit was to attend their Maple Syrup Festival, that was a lot of fun!

Let’s begin our tour of Mackenzie! Here is a map of the grounds.

Mackenzie DirectionsMackenzie Center Lodge and dorm sign


The Lodge

Mackenzie Center Lodge

Located on the south end of the complex, the lodge is where classes are held and where the commercial kitchen is.  We had a great pancake breakfast there at the Maple Syrup fest.  There is a large dining/presentation room that easily accomodated the many hungry people that came for breakfast.

Mackenzie Lodge inside

There are some exhibits in some of the other rooms in the lodge.  Also a cut from a very large tree that was cut down in 1961, it may have been storm damaged.

Old Tree 1854-1961

In the room are also snowshoes and cross-country skis for groups to use on a winter outing.

Mackenzie lodge classroom

Observation Tower

Fire Tower at MackenzieMackenzie Fire Tower sign 4249

The climb to the top was worth it, great view!  The direction you are facing is labeled inside of the top enclosure. Even though it was very windy, I felt safe.

Mackenzie view from tower

Next to the tower is a Smokey the Bear figure you can get a fun selfie with.

Smokey selfie at Mackenzie

Wildlife Area

Mackenzie Wildlife Exhibit entry

Wildlife Area sign at Mackenzie

The “zoo” part of the park, there are animals here that you would typically see throughout Wisconsin.  Many are animal rescues as well. The fire tower overlooks the Bison, or buffalo area. They are hard to see since they usually are not near the fence. An overview of the area. I will show you a few of the animals.  It’s great they also show the footprint of the animal so you can identify it in the wild.

Wildlife area at Mackenzie

Wolf at Mackenzie

Turkey Vulture at Mackenzie

Red Fox at Mackenzie

After visiting all the animals here, cross the street from the wildlife exhibit entrance to enjoy the Windbreak Walk. It looked pretty with snow on the tree branches and blue sky on our most recent visit.

Windbreak Walk sign 2

Windbreak Walk sign at Mackenzie

Windbreak Walk trees at Mackenzie

Windbreak Walk interior at Mackenzie

Right across from the Windbreak Walk is the Badger Den, or conference building.

Badger Den at Mackenzie

Lastly, we head down the hill to the little village where many outdoor education classes takes place.  This is the Nelson Cabin, inside is a logging museum with many old photos and displays.

Nelson Cabin at Mackenzie

Nelson Cabin plaque

The Nelsons

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A Sawmill Diorama, very detailed!

Logging Diorama at Mackenzie

We see the other out buildings, the Wallen Sugar House. A display was inside, also a sign telling you how to make your own syrup!

Wallen Sugar House Sign

Wallen Sugar House at Mackenzie

Wallen Sugar House display at Mackenzie

Many trees are tapped here to collect sap, more information on this sign.

Sugar Bush sign at Mackenzie

The Syrup Finishing House

Syrup Finishing House at Mackenzie

Syrup Finishing House at Mackenzie

Behind these buildings is the sawmill building.

Sawmill building at Mackenzie

Mackenzie also has a Crab Apple Orchard, an important food source for the wildlife in this area.

Crab Orchard sign

We had two enjoyable visits here, give yourself several hours to see everything and have good walking shoes.  Be sure to donate at least $1 when you visit to keep this great facility open.  You can donate online as well.  We hope to be back for another one of their seasonal events later in the year.

Mackenzie Donation box

Maple Syrup Time at Wehr Nature Center

On March 26, 2011 My husband and I went to Franklin, WI to watch how they make maple syrup at the Wehr Nature Center.  We arrived on a cold day, but not too cold to tap maple trees.

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We joined a group led by a guide, and we walked through the sugar bush.  She described how the tree is tapped. Also which leaves identify the maple.

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We then made our way to the sugar camp, where a big cast iron pot was boiling sap down to a thick liquid.

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The man running this camp fascinated the kids with his demonstration.

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He was kind enough to pose with us for a picture, it looked like he was hiding though 🙂

Al and laurie

After our hike through the forest, we made our way back to the nature center for some demonstrations.

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Also had a pancake with some REAL maple Syrup!

Get your pancakes!

Get your pancakes!



We had a great time learning how maple syrup is made and had a great winter outing too.

A Beary Good Time in Mukwonago

Mukwonago sign

No, I wrote beary in the title on purpose, “Mukwonago” literally means “place of the bear”.  It’s located 15 miles south of the Milwaukee city limits. My husband I went there yesterday (3-9-13)  for a visit.  This town has strong roots in Native American culture, and the populace enjoys visitors.  We headed downtown to the historic downtown where a couple of the original houses stood when the town was founded,  there was a 9-foot tall wood carving of a bear.

Bear carving

We also found a synopsis of the history of the town on a sign.

Mukwonago History

Native American history is also quite visible. Outside The Country Porch store downtown is a wooden Indian outside, not many of those left anymore.

Wood Indian

We continued to a local store that is a favorite in the area,  “The Elegant Farmer”.  This is a very unique store, it’s in a barn, and they sell all manner of specialty foods, plus they have a deli. Across the street they have an apple orchard and grow pumpkins.  The have many events throughout the year for the public to enjoy.  It’s a happy place, as depicted by their smiley face barn front facing the road.

The Elegant Farmer Smiley Barn 3-9-13

They had a maple syrup making demo at The Elegant Farmer.

Maple Syrup Demo

Staff from Covenant Harbor at nearby Lake Geneva have sugar maple trees on site that they tap and make their own maple syrup from. They are having a Maple Fest on April 7 and they were promoting this event.  We learned it takes about 70-80 gallons of sap boiled down to make ONE gallon of maple syrup.

A food the The Elegant Farmer is famous for is their  “Apple Pie Baked in a Bag”. Bobby Flay from the Food Network tried to make a better apple pie on his show “Throwdown With Bobby Flay”, but he lost!

Apple Pie in bag

We had a good time and will return later in the year. We also want to explore two other nearby towns, Genesee and Genesee Depot.  There is a historic site at Genesee Depot that is not open yet called Ten Chimneys we want to see.