[caption id="attachment_23823" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img class="size-full wp-image-23823" src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2019\/02\/Fort-Warwick.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="354" \/> Fort Warwick Maple Syrup producer Bob Sheets, left, gives a history lesson to visitors Saturday during the first of two Mountain State Maple Days celebrations. Sheets shared the process of making maple syrup, as well as the history of Fort Warwick and its connection to the sweet concoction. S. Stewart photo[\/caption]\r\n\r\nSuzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nSaturday may have been a dreary, cold day, but things were steamy in the Fort Warwick sugar shack in Green Bank where visitors enjoyed a tour, lesson and taste test during the first of two Mountain State Maple Days.\r\n\r\nVisitors were greeted by Bob and Elaine Sheets\u2019\u00a0 Great Pyrenees, Susie, as they sloshed through mud and into the sugar shack. Gathering around the fire in the rectangular brick oven and watching the maple sap boil down into a tasty sugar, guests learned the process of making maple syrup and the history of syrup in the region.\r\n\r\nThe process begins with hanging metal buckets on trees to collect the tapped sugar water. The collection is emptied into barrels, then into a metal pan resting on the brick oven where it is warmed by a crackling fire.\r\n\r\nAfter the water is boiled out of the sap, the remaining syrup is filtered and finished on the stove before being poured into jars to be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.\r\n\r\nThe metal pan used at the Fort Warwick sugar house has its own interesting history and has served the county well in making maple syrup.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis pan was built sometime in the 1930s on the Pennington place down in the Hill Country by the high school,\u201d Bob said. \u201cAllen Sheets bought it from those folks. My dad was always envious of this pan because it was better than what he had. We had a big ol\u2019 flat pan of his that I made syrup in. This one is especially effective because of the baffles that give you some control over the syrup flow. As you can see, we've got a much darker content up here in the syrup.\u201d\r\n\r\nSon Jed Sheets helps with the syrup processing, and one day, while using a temperature gun, he realized the baffles also serve as another heat source which boils the water away faster.\r\n\r\nThe process used at Fort Warwick is the \u201cold-timey\u201d way \u2013 a tradition passed down from generation to generation. Maple syrup was being made on the property long before the Europeans arrived and built Fort Warwick during the Revolutionary War.\r\n\r\nWhile they may not have had metal pans to boil down their sugar water, the Native Americans in Pocahontas County found a way to make the sweet syrup.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen the colonists showed up here, they learned how to make maple syrup from the Native American tribe, the indigenous people,\u201d Bob said. \u201cWhat indigenous groups didn\u2019t have was \u2013 they didn\u2019t have metal \u2013 so they couldn't boil like this. Their process involved in getting the sap \u2013 they would gash a tree and collect the sap, and they would allow it to freeze, then pull the ice out of it.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe still do that here,\u201d he continued. \u201cJed and I went around the other morning and the sap was frozen in the buckets, and we flipped the two or three inches of ice out of the top of the bucket \u2013\u00a0that concentrates your sap and reduces your boil time.\u201d\r\n\r\nOnce the Native Americans had the concentrated sap, they would set it out in pottery on a sunny day and allow it to evaporate until they had a more concentrated syrup.\r\n\r\n\u201cFor the Native Americans, it was a sweetener \u2013\u00a0something that made their life a little bit better \u2013\u00a0although their life was pretty good,\u201d Bob said.\r\n\r\nVisitors were given an opportunity to taste the syrup as it was boiling to tell the difference between it and the final product.\r\n\r\nAlong with Fort Warwick, Frostmore Farm in Dunmore gave free tours of its facility. Owners Adam and Rachel Taylor have opted to use a more modern approach in making maple syrup \u2013 complete with stainless steel equipment and large vats to hold the sap before it is processed into syrup and other products.\r\n\r\nSeveral local restaurants also participated in the Maple Days celebration with all day breakfast and special maple-inspired menus.\r\n\r\nThe next Mountain State Maple Days is March 16. Watch The Pocahontas Times for a schedule of events and list of participating restaurants.