Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Guest Post by Michelle Mather
Once a year I treat myself to a sauna. I don't have to go far - just down the road - and it doesn't cost me anything at all. In fact this steam bath is maple scented and is available for a limited time only at my neighbour's "sugar shack."
Don & Debbie run a sawmill 12 months of the year, but at this time of the year they are extra busy boiling sap into maple syrup. As soon as their "sugar shack" comes into sight as I drive towards their place and I can see the steam rising into the air, I know I am in for a treat! (I keep putting the words "sugar shack" in quotations because their maple syrup building is far too nice to be called a "shack.")
Don & Debbie string tubing from tree to tree, throughout their maple forest. The tubing empties into large reservoirs. When the reservoirs are filled, they pump the sap into a container on the back of their truck.
Then the sap is pumped from the back of the truck to a reservoir out back.
The reservoir of sap....
Inside, Don is busy loading the firebox.
Then he checks on the status of the evaporator and makes sure everything is running smoothly.
Meanwhile, Debbie is filling bottles with warm maple syrup..... mmmmmm.......
According to OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Afffairs) ".... the sugar maple is the only species of commercial significance for sap production in the maple syrup producing areas of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia....Canada produces about 80% of the world's supply of maple syrup and the United States about 20%. The province of Quebec produces about 90% and Ontario about 5% of the maple syrup produced in Canada in an average year." (from: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/maple.htm)
I've often wondered why maple syrup is only produced in the eastern part of North America and it turns out that we have unique weather patterns that encourage the flow of sap. I guess it's another reason to be grateful for our "seasons" here in Eastern Ontario!
I love the spring time for many reasons... melting snow, the return of migratory birds, longer sunnier days, etc.... but it's also the only time of year that I can enjoy my maple-scented steam bath. And yes, in case you were wondering, we had to have pancakes for dinner when we got home from Don & Debbie's ... with LOTS of syrup on top!
Photos by Cam Mather.