As a child, I looked forward to tapping our maple tree and checking the pail for sap. With just one pail, we didn’t collect a lot of sap or need a sophisticated evaporator. We boiled the sap on our kitchen stove and had enough syrup for a pancake or two. I learned to appreciate the gifts of nature.
     When I remarried in 2008, my husband and I discovered we shared this childhood experience. My mom found a small evaporator at a yard sale and we purchased some pails on Kijiji. We tapped about 50 trees in his parents’ bush in Wainfleet. We ran a pipeline with 50 taps on the hillside at my parents’ cottage in Lowbanks where my dad previously tapped trees.
     Our grandson helped us split wood for the evaporator. Our granddaughters enjoyed running up the hillside to check the pipelines. It was a good 1st season, and, despite the ups and downs, we were pleased with the fruit of our labours, “liquid gold.” As we reflected, we knew this was a hobby we wished to continue together. Even though it was hard work, it connected us with the Divine and with each other.
     We traveled to Quebec to visit other maple syrup producers. We attended the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association annual meeting and talked with Mennonite farmers. We added a few more taps and purchased a larger, more efficient evaporator.
     We are learning as we go. In our culture, waiting is often a negative thing. In the bleak winter months, we patiently wait for the sap to run, and then, for sap to boil into syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup.
     We learn to be attentive to the weather and process. Sap runs when daytime temperatures are above freezing and the night temperatures are below freezing. When the syrup gets close to completion (7 degrees above the boiling point of water, approximately 219º and 66.9 to 68.9 Brix scale on a hydrometer) it requires constant attentiveness. They say, “Everyone loses one batch and then you learn to be attentive.”
     Mother nature presents challenges along the way. Squirrels chew our pipeline. Warm temperatures cause the sap to sour if it is not boiled down fast enough. The season warms up quickly, causing the trees to bud and season to end. We are reminded we are not in control of nature. But despite the challenges, we experience great pleasure in the sap to maple syrup process.
     For more tips about nature and gardening visit Join us from 7-9pm, March 16, for our DHS monthly program night, at the Optimist Club Hall, 101 Main St., Dunnville. Karen Bushert & Moritz Sanio (Grand River Conservation Foundation) will present “Trees and Bees.”
     For more information, call Debbie Thomas, Dunnvillle Horticulture Society/Garden Club President (905) 774-3064 or Deb Zynomirski, VP (416) 556-9337.

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