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Maple sugaring, nature trails and rest spots


By Lori


With spring slowly dawning, here in the frozen north, the forest is easy to traverse. The snow on the ground is like sugar..coarse grains of ice..and with the freeze/thaw of March you can walk atop the crust quite easily in the morning and evening.
March is “sugaring” time. The snow is melting from the more direct rays of the sun after the equinox. and the southside of the tree begins to thaw and the sap begins to “run” …rising from the roots, carrying sugar/food up the trunk in the cambium layer just under the outer bark of the deciduous trees… We commonly “tap” the sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) but other maples may be tapped and birches as well. “Birch beer” is made from fermented sap…have heard of it…but never found anyone who knew how to go about making it.
here’s an update to the Birch sap/Birch beer comment… Imagine my surprise when listening to CBC radio the morning after I wrote this blog and hearing a call-in from a lady who taps birch trees! Aparently their time for sugaring is later than maples…and although the woman lived in a more northerly part of Ontario..the birch trees, according to her, will not be tapped for another month…late April…early May. Apparently the sap has less takes about 80 l. of birch sap to make 4 litres of syrup…and it has it’s own unique taste as well. It came into use because it was cost free during the great depression and the rationing of the world wars… The native population used to drink the sap without boiling it…hence the fermentation into Birch beer/wine??? maybe?

Since I don’t have an evapourator, which is needed to process large amounts of sap into syrup..I decided to tap only five trees. the “boiling” is done in my kitchen…hopefully by next season I’ll have something set up to do the work in the open air.
The ridge of rock runs north to south from the front of our house to the diagonally opposite corner of the lot and the high ground. in the cleft of the ridge there are pockets of hemlocks growing there for centuries, shaded in their tender early years by maples and birches. It is ironic that their wood, which is resinous and tough and used for train sleepers and docking rock cribs can shatter, while growing, with freeze/thaw conditions. The tree in the next picture received an impact from the felling of a huge aspen…it stood looking whole and outwardly untouched…but over the course of the winter the weakened trunk has split and the tree could fall at any time… (hopefully while no one is around)…the picture of the huge stump is the base of the tree that was felled and damaged the hemlock and whose upper branches remain lodged between the damaged hemlock and another tree… makes me angry to see such work.

The ancient rock of the Canadian Shield (basalt veined with quartz and red granite) wears a moss coat that remains green even though it’s been covered with ice and snow most of the winter…In a couple of areas I’ve found the perfect rest or meditation spot..on the exposed rock, under the darkening hemlock canopy.
On our latest trip up the trail we found what I think is garnets. In a vein in the basalt there are red polyhedron crystals…and tho I’m not absolutely sure, I think that I can confirm that they are garnets.

When spring has come and ripened into summer I hope to have trails for walking that will wind all the way to the lookout and back down again. There will be mossy grottoes to enjoy…the vista from the lookout…the rock, fern, moss and the clean air and silence of a well tended retreat… I hope. The work continues.

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What a huge 'garden' to work in! Lovely! I always wondered where Maple Syrup came from - amazing! Love your 'rest spot,' :o)

4 Apr, 2011


so glad your spring has finaly started to arrive Lori. the place looks awesome. those garnets look interesting...enjoy the melt..:-)

4 Apr, 2011


Oooh,'ve got a big area to explore and dream into "your place"....I can feel your thoughts percolating into action as you write! :)

It will be interesting to hear how your maple syrup making pans out. I hope it works out for you. It is a shame there was so much disregard for the health of the forest trees when they were logging them out. Under your tender care I'm sure you'll soon have it all looking ship-shape!

Enjoy the milder days as they arrive and especially enjoy putting all your plans into reality, Lori.

4 Apr, 2011


i find your blogs totally absorbing, the contrasting woodlands and climate as well as your intriguing knowledge ~ how did you learn all that??

a quiet place in the forest would be so lovely, we have a small wood behind our house [it doesnt belong to us] and i often walk in there, i love it but i am still looking for a little spot to sit!

i do hope they are garnets in that rock ~ how can you find out for definite? could it be red granite?

your hemlock sounds very different from ours which is a weed/plant along the hedgerows, growing to about 4 or 5 foot tall with white flowers on top of a single stem.

4 Apr, 2011


Always nice to see blogs from other parts of the world, i have a friend in British Columbia who i met (well haven't met in real life but you know what i mean) through researching my family tree she has sent me a book on Canada and just last week recieved a calendar with lovely photos on of places there. Lovely photos made me feel chilly though!!! Although after a warm streak its flipping freezing outside this morning!!!

4 Apr, 2011


cold here too Sk ~ but we dont have that crystallised sugary snow here!!!
just fancy some of that maple syrup tho!!!
think i will have pancakes for tea with maple syrup on now!

4 Apr, 2011


I look forward to reading your blog's Lori they are full of interest and great picture's.Hope your maple syrup work's out :-)

4 Apr, 2011


Mavis: thanks! I'm pleased you find my blogs of interest. I have made about a quart of syrup from about 4 days of "run" from 4 trees....takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup.. so you see why it's expensive to buy in the shops. I've kept my operation small this year...when I have an evaporator I'll be able to tap more trees. Perhaps it's a good thing to give the trees a year without being tapped? :-)!
Nariz, Sandra, W'lass, and Sewingkilla...Thanks! It's not a huge lot...just a nice little homestead...and I'm enjoying exploring so much. It's really great to share the experience with friends! I have a "resource", a person in my family who is up on "geology" so I can send the pic to him for confirmation. It may only be rose quartz...but I was surprised to see it just sitting there half covered in snow...out there in the bush!! Another nice surprise.
Maple syrup on your pancakes, Sticki??? mmmm...and a nice strong, milky cuppa to clear the palate! delish!

5 Apr, 2011


do let us know what that rock is ~ i put granite ~ thinking of the pink granite that lies at the western edge of the isle of mull at the point where the boat leaves for Iona; i forgot about the quartz that is often in it. whichever it is its lovely to look at ~ i would certainly consider it a jewel ~ but then maple syrup is a jewel in another way!!

5 Apr, 2011


nice to see your land come to life Lori now the snow is starting to melt, loved reading the blog on the sap and maple syrup, i just love it with pancakes of course, lovely photos :o)) you will be able to start your pond soon :o)))

5 Apr, 2011


will you be selling the syrup lori?

5 Apr, 2011


My dad was a "rock hound", Sticki...he loved to pour over his collection of samples. He had lodestone, mica, quartz of many colours, agates, ancient basalt, soapstone, sandstone, even a sample of asbestos, which we liked to shred. Never occurred to us that it was a dangerous thing to do!
No, I won't sell the syrup I make, Sticki...I'm just making it for our own use this year...maybe next year I'll make enough to sell.

6 Apr, 2011


i used to collect rocks ~ well most of them were stones but i loved them. the only bits i have now are a couple from iona.

6 Apr, 2011


I have a collection of myown, Sticki. Having just gone thro a move...I had to leave some of my favs behind they were just tooo heavy to transport. Kept a piece of ancient limestone can see the ripples on the surface and the strata of sedimentation. Have some trilobite and a sea-cucumber...amethyst crystals and an agate...just what I could carry! lol...

10 Apr, 2011

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