You know you live somewhere cold and North if the first week that things are above zero:
-you have the windows open 24/7
-jackets become optional
-everyone and their Grandma takes up jogging, ball hockey & other outdoor sports
-talk of spring, BBQ’s and 5k’s abound
Call me a pessimist, but I’m a bit reluctant to put away my mittens and Uggs. As much as I’m dying to plant my tomato and basil seeds and start wearing flip-flops, I know that Ontario weather is full of surprises. But! One major upside of the pre-spring stage is maple syrup. In case you don’t know, maple syrup is harvested in late winter when the temperature gets warmer during the days and is still cold at night. Luckily for me, a friend of mine harvests maple syrup as a hobby (!). So yesterday, Varun and I pulled on our boots, loosened our belts and headed into the wilds of Ontario to see how it’s done.
From the gently dripping taps to the 14-hour rolling boil, the maple-syrup making process is extraordinary. The sap that comes out of the trees is about 97% water; it takes hours of boiling for it to leave behind that sticky goodness we call syrup.
The sugar shack was warm, smokey and smelled like maple syrup: I did not want to leave. Apparently, neither did Varun. There were engineering wonders to behold.
When the guage is 7 F (yes, F, who knows why?) above something (shoot, I forget what), you twist the tap, et voila! Piping hot syrup!
Fancy pipes (“flexible hoses” according to Varun) carrying sap from taps to buckets.
I think the open spaces, the fresh air and the simplicity of a delicious hobby were good for our souls.
So much sugar!
And, in case you’re not yet craving pancakes and maple syrup, perhaps these quotes will entice you.
“In contemplating the present opening prospects in human affairs, I am led to expect that a material part of the general happiness which heaven seems to have prepared for mankind, will be derived from the manufacture and general use of Maple Sugar.”
Letter to Thomas Jefferson by Benjamin Rush, August 19, 1791
“A sap-run is the sweet good-by of winter. It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and frost.”
John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886