Checking out the sugar bush…and it wasn’t what I was expecting

We packed a lot into Sunday. A last minute change of plans saw us heading out with Bec, Alastair, Shane and Claire to check out a sugar bush. For those not in the know, the sugar bush is a grove of maple trees that are being tapped for their sap.

Shane drove us about an hour west to the Mountsberg Conservation Area where there were a goodly number of people also coming to check out this Canadian phenomenon. Other fellows arrived soon after we got there, and then we trekked out to the maples.

It wasn’t what I was expecting.

I thought that maple syrup came straight out of the trees. You put a tap in it, puncture the bark, and out runs sweet, sweet maple syrup.

Not so.

Instead the taps collect sap (also known as sugar water), which is about 97% water and only 3% sugar, and the sap runs into blue buckets that are attached to the trees. It takes about 40 buckets of sap to make 1 bucket of syrup. Oh, and you also have to boil the hell out of it to reduce it down. My illusions have been shattered.

As well as the trees, there’s also a small collection of buildings where you can see them boiling the sap, or making maple sugar (and have a small sample). There’s also a demonstration of how they used to make the syrup, back in ye olde times in cauldrons over wood fires.

There was also a pancake house. Glen and I lined up and bought a regular meal, which included two enormous thick pancakes, two small sausages, maple syrup, butter and a hot drink (we had apple cider). We sat outside eating it, and man, was it cold. It was about -12°C. Sure, the sun was out, but it was so cold, my fingers hurt – and I was wearing gloves! The maple syrup went really cold. The pancakes were nice, though, and really filling.

The others came by as we finished ours and they ordered their own. Glen and I looked in the shop, then returned to sit inside with them while they finished their pancakes. They each had two each, which made Glen and my jaws drop. We could barely finish our one each.

Pancakes finished, we made a snow man from bits of left over snow balls/mounds, and then wandered back to look at the farm animals (two lambs were born only moments before we got there) and watch the birds of prey presentation at the raptor rescue centre.

We learned that Helen the Peregrine, who flies outside our window occasionally with her boyfriend Barry, is not a peregrine but a red-tailed hawk.

After the presentation and a look at the other raptors there (the snowy owl was my favourite), we hopped back in the car and headed back to Toronto. We stopped at the Evergreen Brickworks on the way, to have a late lunch/afternoon tea. The place, as you may have guessed, used to be a brickworks but it’s been redeveloped into a garden centre/cafe/community space that’s very trendy. It’d be even nicer in summer and I intend to go back. There’s a shuttle bus from one of the subway stations so it’s not too inconvenient.

We got dropped off at about 4-ish and Glen and I pottered at home before heading to Ur and Israel’s for dinner with Bec and Alastair. We ate some delicious home-cooked food, drank a lot, and played Cards Against Humanity, which resulted in lots of laughter – and quite a late Sunday night.

So that was our packed Sunday. We all paid for it a bit on Monday, but what can you do?

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