Valerie Blaine stood Sunday at the base of a large maple tree at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles and tried to explain to the young crowd gathered around her how to collect sap to make sweet maple syrup.
It wasn't easy. The below-freezing wind chills and frozen sap were working against her during the annual Maple Sugaring Days event at Creek Bend Nature Center.
"If it wasn't so cold ...," she said to the dwindling crowd, who were heading for the warmth of a building at the nature center, " ... you would see the sap run from the spile."
The dozens of families at the weekend event tasted fresh maple syrup, and visited several hands-on exhibits in the warmth of the building, asking questions about drilling maple trees for sap, tapping the trees with spiles, and the process of creating syrup from sap.
Blaine, a naturalist with the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, explained that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup.
"After you see the process today, you'll have an appreciation for why maple syrup costs so much," she said.