Monday, March 18, 2013

Sugar Bush

Our first sugar bush experience!  Will try to keep this brief, but it'll be hard!


So we learned a bit about maple syrup making, by walking around and reading the info and by listening to a lovely old man with a long lifetime of experience who told us about the old and the "modern" ways of maple tapping.  The traditional way is to insert a tap into the tree, during these few weeks of the year in the early spring when the sap flows most abundantly, and collect the sap in these metal buckets.

 But this sugar camp is a fairly big operation so they converted first to metal tubing and later to plastic tubing like this...

Which means miles of tubing snaking around the woods, not the most attractive thing to see, but it's so much more efficient. It also means all the old buckets are no longer used...

All that tubing takes the sap downhill towards the pump house, from where it is pumped back up the short distance to the boiling room.

 In here it is boiled a few times, each time removing more water and impurities, then it's passed through a paper filter where the "sugar sand" is collected and used to make various products like soaps and scrubs.

 And eventually you get maple syrup. We've met some people who just never have any refined sugar in their house at all. I'm planning for that one day too. Maple syrup and honey. Yum.

We had a wander around the grounds. Here's Tadhg laughing at his sledding antics- just seconds after he narrowly missed knocking over his pregnant mother before crashing into the corner of a log cabin (seen behind). He avoided smacking his face into the corner by a hair's breadth. Hilarious.

We went on a sleigh ride along one of the trails through the woods. Past hundreds of tapped maples and their collecting tubes. Some traditional style wooden shelters were still there and some of the tree names were labelled. Very pleasant ride, especially in this weather!

Growing belly front and centre!

We then played in the woods a while and sat by the fire for a while, the boys each toasting a marshmallow.

We then walked a short trail that had lots of info panels on the tapping process as well as the trees and wildlife. The boys were interested and stopped to read them, something they usually resist and just run right past, infuriating their mother!


There was a pancake house there, with a live band decked out in green playing Irish music for St. Patrick's Day, but we skipped the maple breakfast (saving for a trip) and found a picnic table by a river in a nearby town to eat our picnic- hot (thermos-warm) veggie chilli and homemade bread and butter.

On the way home in the afternoon we got a phone call from some friends inviting us to join them for a walk so we went straight there. The trail went past a wild bird care centre so we stopped in to see the birds before going for a lovely walk in the woods. The 4 kids with us, and the grown up boys, had fun running ahead and hiding to jump out on the stragglers. 

 It was a beautiful, sunny, early spring day with a good few hours spent outside. After the walk we went back to our friends' house for more outside play (kids) and a yummy supper of sausages, mash and sauerkraut, followed by singing and guitar and fiddle playing.

Last week was March Break so the boys are back at school today and Steve is back at work. Hence me posting a few blog posts all on one day!



These boys are so good to each other and love each other so much, it makes me teary sometimes when I witness those special moments of closeness and kindness that happen regularly. I love that they have each other and have so much fun to look forward to in the future.
Tadhg looks up to Brendan and naturally tries to imitate a lot of what he does. If Brendan says something interesting, Tadhg will immediately say something similar, though often it's half nonsense. Brendan reads to Tadhg and will help him with tricky things. They make each other laugh constantly.
I could stop there and pretend that this is the 'whole' truth, but I should also note (as a reminder of reality and to prevent selective memory in the future!) that, of course, they can also wind each other up something rotten! There is a fair share of jealousy, competition, frustration, 'button-pushing' and, rarely, a bit of violence. And although those moments drive mum and dad up the wall at times, when I really think about it, peace and cooperation far outweigh the tension. Lucky boys.

Dog try out

Our friends were heading off on holiday so we looked after their dog for ten days. Floyd is a perfectly behaved, gorgeously scruffy wee dog who is so friendly and good with kids. Just what we'd be hoping for if we were ever to bring a dog into the family. His only naughty habit was getting food off the table or kitchen bunker. One morning, when returning after rushing out to school without properly tidying up the breakfast or the lunch making stuff, I was greeted by a guilty looking Floyd, a sausage package on the living room floor and a shredded shreddies package on the kitchen floor. He had eaten the lot... a third of a box of shreddies and 8 turkey sausages. Thankfully he didn't suffer any tummy nastiness, though he may have felt a bit tubbier to his owners when they got home.

Floyd kept his distance from Belle for the first couple of days, as she would hiss a little if he got too close. Over time though they both relaxed until they could walk right by each other without paying any attention.

So maybe a dog one day, if we feel settled enough some time. But for now, we are happy with our Belle and she is the perfect cat- happy and playful and chilled out, and most importantly, able to tolerate these shenanigans...

Winter in Ottawa

The boys have continued skiing and are both becoming more confident on skies. Steve enjoyed teaching his adult class and has been out skiing a few other times either on his own or with a friend.

We went to Ottawa's winterlude ice slides on its last weekend. We had fun, despite the odd grumble about the slides being a bit disappointing. Our local sliding hill is more fun, but this set up put on by the city does a good job of attracting people, and the more people get outside the better!! 
Very pregnant belly in the back there having trouble getting comfy in the tube.

Scandinavian style push sleds were a big hit.

No good pics but here's one lot of ice slides, with Tadhg in red on the left.

Siobhan, Brendan and Tadhg's first 'beaver tails'- a big fried mess of doughnut batter and sugar. A walk down memory lane for Steve. 

A few other activities... peddle go-karts, an army obstacle course (that, embarrassingly for Steve, opened late and then required a signature to accept responsibility should a child trip over a tyre or something equally dangerous!) , a 'join-in' zumba stage show and an Inuit display and campfire where we learned from an Inuit man about how to use various animals parts to make useful objects. 

We've also done a lot of sliding this year. Sometimes with the nieghbour kids and their tube slides, sometimes with the Reinhart-Smiths or school friends and their families. Sometimes boys only and sometimes Siobhan tags along and does one or two runs- though this is getting increasingly uncomfortable as the belly expands!

And this delightful snow family greeted us one day when we turned up at our friends' house to visit.

After a couple of warmer weeks, including a couple of bike riding days and a big snow thaw (with resulting flooding of the garage) it was harder this morning to enjoy the trip to school this morning at -15C. I for one didn't put enough clothing on. Brrrrrrrrrrrr!

Just a nice one of the boys watching skaters on the rink.