Friday, March 8, 2013

How Sweet It Is

Last weekend, we headed up to my parents' house. Sometimes we go just to hang out and visit, but this time we had a plan: we wanted to go see the maple sugaring demonstration at a nearby nature preserve. I had been a few times, but Keith had never gone. We had attempted it several years, only to have it cancelled because of bad weather or because the sap wasn't running. This time, everything went as planned.

The presentation in the visitors centers was being given every hour, on the hour, and we arrived shortly after 1:00 so we decided to head out to the "sugar bush," the group of sugar maples being tapped, first. Bert and Memere took the lead, but the path was kind of muddy so Bert ended up being carried for part of it. But not before he tripped in a pile of wet leaves and got muddy, of course.

In the photo above, you can see the sugar shack on the left where they were cooking down the sap into syrup. And giving samples. Bert approves.

Here's the vessel they cooked the sap down in. I'm trying to remember if they referred to it as a kettle but I'm not sure. (Update: I've just been informed that it is called an evaporator.) It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

We watched a woman tap into a tree and insert a spile, hanging the bucket from it to catch the sap as it ran out. There were lots of kids crowded around the tree, taking turns with the tap and hitting the spile so I wasn't able to get any good photos. Here is Bert checking out another bucket. He seemed pretty mesmerized by the dripping of the sap.

They also had a dug-out log to show how the Native Americans collected sap, before settlers brought over buckets and pails.

I think Bert would have taken a bath in it if we had let him.

A man was demonstrating how spiles used to be made out of sumac, a really soft wood, by heating a rod and pushing it through a short branch, and then tapering one end to go into the tree and cutting the other into a spout. We even got to bring one of those home and put it in Bert's keepsake box.

Then we head back out of the woods to hear the presentation on the history of maple sugaring.

Keith and I sat through the presentation, which was very interesting. (Did you know that Canada has a maple syrup reserve to keep the price of syrup steady and last year there was a maple syrup heist? I think the presenter said it was $18 million worth of syrup. Talk about some sticky fingers.) Bert and Memere headed over to the wildlife exhibits in another part of the building and checked out displays about coyotes, fish, and other animals.

We were so glad to finally get to see the demonstration, and bought some maple syrup while we were there. I think Bert will like doing this again in years to come when he is big enough to help tap into the tree and taste the sap right as it runs out like the other bigger kids were doing.

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