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.
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!