Wednesday, March 13

Malabar Farm Maple Sugar Festival

It is nearly the end of the season in my region for Maple Syrup making.  But farther north the season is still going strong. 

About an hour and a half drive north from my location is the historical home and farm of Pulitzer prize winner author Louis Bromfield.  His home and the surrounding nearly 1000 acres is now a state park called Malabar Farm State Park, located in Lucas, Ohio.

I love to tour historical sites and if possible, like to tie it in with seasonal activities or a hobby I’m currently involved with, so the Malabar Farm State Park Maple Sugar Festival was perfect for me! 

I have read a few of Louis Bromfield’s books and have for months looked forward to touring the farm.

Louis Bromfield, a dedicated conservationist, was originally from Mansfield, Ohio.  He returned to his home state in 1939 after living abroad for several years in France. 
Malabar Farm, in Pleasant Valley was Bromfield's dream. He built the house, restored the land and preserved the woodland. 
Bromfield has come to be recognized as a pioneer in organic farming.  He was awarded the Audubon Medal for Conservation in 1952 and in 1980, after his death, he was inducted into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Four of Bromfield's works have been the basis for movies, including "When the Rains Came" and "Mrs Parkington".  Bromfield was also known for his many Hollywood friends, including James Cagney, Shirley Temple and Errol Flynn.  Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart were married at Malabar Farm.

The State acquired the farm and huge 32 room house in 1972.  You can tour the barns, pet the livestock, take a guided tour of the house, stroll along the pond, visit the pioneer graveyard, tent camp at the campground or stay in the Malabar Hostel.  There is also a smoke house, dairy barn, flower gardens, sawmill, springhouse, restaurant, hiking trails and log cabin.

Included in the Park is the Ceely Rose House, site of a triple murder in 1896. Ceely Rose poisoned her parents and brother to make way for a love interest.  It is rumored that the Rose home, Malabar Farm and the Pleasant Valley Cemetery are all haunted by Ceely's ghost!

We arrived early and once parked, there were horse drawn wagons to take visitors up to the sugar bush.  

Horse drawn wagon to take visitors to the sugar bush

The weather was mild so we decided instead to walk the gravel road and enjoy the scenery.   

Walking back to the sugaring demonstration at Malabar Farm

Along the way we passed a beautiful half frozen pond, saw many geese and ducks, and numerous metal sap buckets hanging from large old sugar maple trees.

Malabar Farm's sugar shack and maple sap steam

Rounding a bend we came upon the sugar shack, which was surrounded in a cloud of steam.  The sugar festival had demonstrations on the methods used by American Indians to boil sap using birch bark containers and the pioneer method of using three cast iron pots. 

American Indian sugaring 

Early pioneer method:  three pot sugaring

Because of the recent snow fall the walk back into the sugar bush was just beautiful.  Here we saw the modern method of sap collecting which involves “miles” of plastic tubes and hoses, all running down hill into a holding tank.

Hiking back to the sugar bush, Malabar Farm

After spending half the day at the Sugar Festival we decided to tour Malabar, the house and barns.

The home is beautiful, and supposedly just as Bromfield left it when he passed away in the late 1950’s.  On tour you will see art work from Grandma Moses, Thurber plus many more and you can even view Bromfield’s Pulitzer.  One of my projects this year is building a greenhouse, so I was very envious of the one on the farm.

Malabar Farm barns, chicken coop and green house

But what I was most excited about were the books.  Books and bookshelves were in every room, even built into coat closets. 
The Curator allowed us to pull a few books off the shelves and take a peak. 

Most were first additions, and many were signed from the giver to Bromfield.  Bromfield’s book collection is said to be around 4200 books, all of which you can reserve and read on the premises, by contacting the Ohio State University at Mansfield.
The living room area was also a favorite of mine.  The four sets of French doors, 2 on each side of the room, and large fireplace make the room striking.  The natural lighting is amazing and you can easily image a summer evening, relaxing with a book, the doors open wide to the sounds of the farm and the countryside. 

See more of my Malabar Farm photos on My Flickr Photostream.  

Another visit is in the works for late spring / early summer, camping, hiking and just enjoying the same sites and sounds a great Ohio writer also enjoyed.


Homemade Waffle Recipe

Maple Syrup Making

Tapping Maple Trees

Turning Tree Sap Into Syrup

Grades of maple syrup, determined by color

“As soils are depleted, human health, vitality and intelligence go with them”
"For a man or woman to find that for themselves there is nothing so exciting or so satisfying 
or so beautiful as the earth and the seasons and rich green fields and fat cattle,
 the sound of foxes barking in the night and the raccoon's print in the snow". 


Grey Beard said...

Even with out words your photos tell an amazing story.

Alexis Elizabeth said...

Amazing farm. There is a natural well-spring on the property, set by the old farmer's market stand, where faamous people would be put to work selling veggies. The spring was said to be a regular stop for Jonney Appleseed when he was traveling across the land. The water from it was sweet and delicious, no hints of iron or sulfer. Very crisp. The smells wafting out from the stagecoach in were mouthwatering. The only thing I didn't see, or at least didn't find, were beehives, which seemed like would have been needed on such a large planting operation. Bromsfield had a vinyl player hidden in a closet in the foyer, and had speakers wired through the entire house to listen to music. Very fancy for the day and age. His eldest daughter was skitzo-typical, and her artwork hangs throughout the house, which was amazing and very beautiful. No words could begin to describe his book collection. Probably the best personal library I've seen to date. I can't wait to go back to this amazing estate/park, tent camp, walk miles and miles all over the property. The curator in the house, a balding olderman with glasses, was very informed on the history of the estate, and not only that, but he was extremely passionate about the entire ordeal-it was not just his job, but his interest, his passion. He did research on his own outside of work, and had a ton of fascinating facts to tell us, and answered all of our questions with detail and furvor. Amazing trip. Unbelievable.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks Grey Beard.

Alexis, I think I need you to be a guest writer. You describe Malabar Farm so well, I feel as if I'm there when reading your comment.....

Anonymous said...

I've been exploring for a bit, different articles and weblog posts on making maple syrup . I was exploring in Yahoo and I eventually stumble upon this website. This is uncanny, but this is exactly what I needed.
Great photos and information from this post and your other ones on maple syrup making. Thanks for the information, I think I'll try making it this winter! Martin

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

I'm sure you're going to like the process and once you try making your own syrup you won't go back. It's wonderful. Good luck and stop back to let me know how it went!

Anonymous said...

I am sure this post has helped many people and it really should go viral. Its a really really gooԁ piece on Malabar Farm but also on the sugar festival. Thanks for the information, Dre

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks, glad you liked it