Even if it looks like winter outside, you can count on maple trees to know otherwise.
In late February, their sap starts to run, and that's "the sweet good-bye of winter," writes naturalist John Burroughs.
Indigenous people were first to tap trees, inserting hollow reeds, letting the sap drip into troughs and boiling it down over a wood fire. The process isn't much different today, except most people use metal taps, plastic tubing and buckets to catch the sap.
It's still a lot of work; it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. But most people think real maple syrup is worth the effort.
Why do we love St. Patrick? Because when the landscape still is icy and white, he makes everything else turn green --- clothes, beer, even rivers.
For that, the legendary Irish priest deserves sainthood.
Here are some good ways to celebrate his day in 2022 .
Before Valentine's Day, and as winter drags on, everyone starts thinking about romantic getaways.
Well, we already have a story about romantic places to stay , and beyond that, who can say what romance is?
After a long winter, everyone deserves a spring getaway.
On a budget? No problem. Spring is the best time to find deals, and often the weather is stellar.
In Wisconsin's Blue Hills, help out at a nature preserve and stay free. In central Iowa, learn orienteering and archery at a women's skills retreat. In Chicago, have a sleepover in a museum or stay at one of three hostels during Craft Beer Week.
Think a little bit outside the box, and you'll save a ton of money.
When winter seems to be lasting forever, you just want to get away.
Of course, that's not so easy to do if you're buried in snow. Then you may have to get away a lot closer . . . maybe to the hotel around the corner.
Until then, here are some great winter getaways, each with lots to do and see.
If you're looking for the complete treatment --- spas, shops, fine dining --- head for one of the big resorts, such as the Osthoff in Elkhart Lake, American Club in Kohler and Grand Geneva near Lake Geneva. The bigger they are, the better the off-season deals.
On a lovely day in fall, few places show off this region better than the St. Croix River Valley between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The 52-mile stretch from Taylors Falls to the St. Croix's confluence with the Mississippi at Prescott has everything a tourist could want --- shops, historic houses, theaters, train excursions, boat cruises.
But mostly, it has scenery --- scenery I wanted to show my nieces Alissa and Livia, who had left Florida to start careers in the Twin Cities. As it turns out, the St. Croix in autumn looks awfully good to people raised in Florida.
There's nothing like traveling the countryside on a bicycle.
From a bike seat, you hear the murmur of wind through field and forest, and you actually notice the sky and its clouds, as mesmerizing as a lava lamp.
You can ride on your own, but it's more fun to join one of the many cross-state rides organized by bicycle clubs and charities.
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