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May
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2018
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A family-friendly tour of Flying Mouse Farm, owned by John DeWine and Michelle Burns, with its sugar shack and maple sugaring operation will take place this Sunday, March 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the farm at 100 E. Fairfield Pike. Attendees should dress for muddy conditions. (Photo by Will Drewing)

A family-friendly tour of Flying Mouse Farm, owned by John DeWine and Michelle Burns, with its sugar shack and maple sugaring operation will take place this Sunday, March 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the farm at 100 E. Fairfield Pike. Attendees should dress for muddy conditions. (Photo by Will Drewing)

Maple sugaring at Flying Mouse

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Maple sugaring season came early this year, as it did the year before, and the year before that. “We used to start tapping trees in early February when we first started sugar mapling,” said Michele Burns, who with her husband, John DeWine, own and operate Flying Mouse Farms. 

This is Flying Mouse Farms’ 10th year producing maple syrup. It’s also the seventh year that the couple will host the public on a tour of their farm and sugar shack. About 150 people came to last year’s tour, arriving from surrounding areas of Greene County, but also Montgomery and Miami counties. This year’s family-friendly tour is scheduled for Sunday, March 4, at 2 p.m. at the farm, 100 E. Fairfield Pike.

“The weather was beautiful (at last year’s sugar shack tour) and I think people really want to get outside at that time of the year,” said Burns. “Many people also are interested in local food and farm operations.”

Sugar maple sap runs when the weather fluctuates between the extreme cold and warmth of night and day. Sugar maple farmers have had to adjust for climate change for several years now, tapping trees closer to winter’s equinox each year. Flying Mouse Farms tapped their maple trees Jan. 22 this year, two weeks earlier than last year. “People who tap earlier are getting bigger quantities,” said DeWine. 

DeWine has so far this season made over 90 gallons of certified organic, 100 percent maple syrup. One gallon of syrup requires 40 gallons of tree sap, meaning DeWine, with the aid of two helpers, has harvested over 3,600 gallons of sugar maple sap this year. Syrup will be available for sale at the sugar shack tour. 

The activities of the tour are weather dependent. As sap will go bad if stored without freezing, visitors might not get to watch the process of sugar mapling this year, according to Burns and DeWine. Instead, DeWine may teach the process through instruction, versus experience. Burns, meanwhile, will guide groups of curious visitors around the farm’s 24 acres of gardens, greenhouses and pastures. 

Flying Mouse Farms produces over 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables, keeps bees and raises small livestock such as sheep and turkeys. The farm is self-sufficient aside from electricity. And the fences and small structures are made from what the land has provided, giving a rustic feel to the overall atmosphere. 

Burns and DeWine purchased the land in 2007 from DeWine’s grandfather, Dick DeWine, who bought the land from historic Whitehall Farm in 1958. The elder DeWine planted an apple orchard on the land, which stands today between the sugar shack and sheep pasture. Burns and the younger DeWine had the farm certified as organic by 2009.

Today, the couple starts each year collecting sugar maple sap, and evaporating the clear liquid down to syrup using their wood-fired evaporator with three troughs, designed to filter the sap as it boils down until it’s sticky and sweet. DeWine then filters the syrup through cloth before canning it. Bottles of freshly made maple syrup currently litter the table tops of the sugar shack. 

Along with operating the 24-acre organic farm, Burns also works for the land conservation group Tecumseh Land Trust as that organization’s associate director. DeWine, whose main responsibility is the farm’s operations, holds a Ph.D. in ecology. “We love growing food, being outside, living in this beautiful place. We love being able to continue his grandfather’s legacy,” said Burns.

Flying Mouse Farms has a Facebook page, where you can find updates about the sugar shack tour, the farm and its products. 

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Maple sugaring at Flying Mouse

by William Drewing