My son who works in the Prairie Provinces has come home to visit and suggests that we spend Family Day (President Day in USA) together by visiting a maple syrup farm, because there are no maple trees in the Prairies. Interestingly, we have found out that the Bering family, which has been farming in southern Ontario for over 75 years has gradually switched from dairy farming into maple.
We could not have chosen a better day to spend the day out. It was cold, but the sun was shining. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. The drive was smooth and we soon arrived at the front gate of The White Meadows Farms in St. Catharines, Ontario.
We were welcome by greeters who dressed in costumes dating back to the days of the pioneers, and the next thing we found was that we were embarking on what was called the Sugar Bush Adventure.
We rode in a tractor-drawn wagon, sitting on bales of hay to out to the Bush. There were many families with children and looking at them, I suddenly felt very proud that I had completed my life task of raising my children; mine are all grown up and left home. I recalled my last visit to a maple syrup farm with my children and their elementary school classes. I was very distracted because I had to keep an eye on the kids. This time, I felt totally relaxed walking along the maple trails and soaking in the winter sun and the beauty of winter.
The Sugar Bush Adventure was a well-orchestrated interactive tour which took us from one station to the next to learn about how maple syrup was discovered by the pioneers by serendipity, how tapping was done (then and now), and how sap was turned into syrup by old technology and new. I was pleased to catch up with the tube sapping method that was introduced only about 10 years ago and was still evolving.
There was a station demonstrating how to make taffy on snow with tasting offered, and how to use a two-person cross-cut saw and you could keep a branded piece of wood you cut as a souvenir. You could buy a bag of maple syrup coated popcorn, or test your knowledge on maple syrup by answering questions as you found your way in a maze.
The presentation was done by energetic and articulated young people, who probably were students doing their part-time job as long as they did not mind the cold weather outdoors. We saw a demonstration of how natives would heat up the sap by dropping burnt wood into the liquid, and using fur to sieve the ashes to get the syrup. Then we saw the use of pots and flat pans, and we were reminded that for every litre of maple syrup, forty litres of sap was needed.
We not only learn about the story of maple syrup, we also enjoyed the winter air and the beautiful scenery of the grounds.
When this was done, we were feeling hungry and ready for a pancake breakfast with maple syrup. Unfortunately this was when we had to stand in line for over half an hour. We were ravenous by the time we ordered and we ended of the biggest meals on the menu–The Pioneer and the Canadian.
The syrup for the pancakes was delightful and so was the maple syrup baked beans. I even ordered a maple coffee to complete my maple syrup day with my family on Family Day.