|'Ask This Old House' visits Shelburne sugarhouse|
David: "It's like a maple sauna in here," Jenn Nawada said from behind a cloud of maple sugaring steam.
Inside the sugar shack at Shelburne Farms, Nawada watched as staff created maple syrup from sap tapped from trees just outside.
With the help of a camera crew, she will share the process of maple sugaring with the rest of the United States on "Ask This Old House," a show on PBS. Nawada is the show's landscape designer.
"Ask This Old House" is a spin-off of "This Old House," the original TV home-improvement show that follows one whole-house renovation over several episodes.
A production team was on site Tuesday to shoot an episode about maple sugaring and show homeowners how they can make syrup in their own backyards.
"Since the recession, interest in growing your own food has grown," said Heath Racela, the show's producer. "Most people think of growing vegetables in their garden or planting apple trees, but people forget that we have this edible forest, too."
"Those trees can produce this," Nawada said, pointing to a jar of freshly poured maple syrup.
Shelburne Farms is the first of several stops for the show's upcoming season. The maple syrup episode will air next winter as part of the show's 14th season, Racela said.
Nawada is a former Shelburne Farms teacher. In 1996 she taught in the outdoor education department at the farm. When the show started doing episodes focusing on farm-to-table food production, she knew the Boston-based crew had to make a trip to Shelburne.
From milk, to cheese, to maple syrup, the working farm produces food for the restaurant at Inn at Shelburne Farms.
"This is where I began my love for the outdoors," she said. "Now it's full circle back to the farm and the place that connects humans back to nature."
Vera Chang, public relations and marketing manager for the farm, said the show ties in nicely with what the farm is focused on ? education and cultivating a conservation ethic for a sustainable future.
Only so many people actually make it out to the farm, she said, but the program will show homeowners how they can practice sustainable farming wherever they are.
"We get excited when we can talk about our forest," Chang said. "People know we are a working farm and produce things from milk, to cheese to vegetables, but people forget these 100-year-old trees give us food, too."
The crew spent several hours shooting three scenes in the farm's 400 acres of sustainable forest. Bundled up in layers of coats and mittens, Dana Bishop, assistant woodland manager, showed Nawada each step of the sugar making process.
Bishop served as the face of Shelburne Farms for the taping of the show. She is one of the expert sugar makers at the farm, Chang said, along with Marshall Webb, the farm's woodland manger.
The crew captured Bishop and Nawada walking through the forest as Bishop explained what makes a maple tree "tappable," the number of buckets of sap (40) needed to produce one gallon of syrup and the tools needed to boil the clear sap until it turns to the beautiful golden-brown color people recognize.
Nawada and Bishop shot their first scene in the forest where the pair discussed commercial tapping. Cameras rolled as Bishop showed the crew how the trees are linked together with tubes that carry the sap down to the sugarshack.
To give amateur sugar makers a look at how they can get started tapping, Bishop showed Nawada how to tap a tree the old-fashioned way. The farm has a crank drill to tap a hole in tree trunks, but homeowners can use any drill they have on hand, Bishop said.
A maple tree should be about 10 inches in diameter to tap a hole, she said. For two taps, a tree should be at least 18 inches in diameter.
From the forest, the crew moved into the sugar shack to see the equipment professional sugar makers use to boil sap into syrup.
The shack is equipped with a stainless steel evaporator, which is heated by a wood fire. Most homeowners don't have that in their backyard, Nawada said, so a grill or turkey fryer will work just fine.
"But make sure you do it outside or the steam will take your wallpaper right off," she said.