Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Sugar Shack

When we found out our neighbour's son had never been to a sugar shack...we HAD to go.  Not like we weren't going to go on March Break anyway...that just increased the imperative!  We MUST go!

I always enjoy a good stroll through the sugar bush.  Its something so uniquely Canadian.  Its something so seasonal.  I had read all about the settler's experience with the sugar bush in Suzanna Moody's book "Roughing it in the Bush".  It was in the 1830's when settlers were shown the wonders of the sweet water that flowed in the early spring from certain maples.  It was the Irish immigrant workforce that had the patience to try this task at home.  A grueling few cold nights spent stoking the fire and stirring, stirring, always stirring for fear it would smoke out the landowners home in sulphury clouds.  It was a labour of love, for each person to try a piece of maple sugar or real maple syrup...are rarely ever the same after.  This was before mass production and super markets full of ready to eat items.  Maple syrup was a treat only enjoyed once a year...and I try to impart that on my kids today.  Its the only time I indulge in maple sugar and the sugar shack syrup always tastes better after a cool hike in the woods.

A beautiful day in the woods...the kids always let their spring fever loose!
We hike to the sugar shack at the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation area in Kingston through a winding trail...happy to be outdoors after what feels like a lifetime of freezing cold windy days.  The boys enjoy a nice reprieve from winter's friend, cabin fever. 

On cold sunny days, the sap runs fast!

Owen is introduced to the sweet water....big brother Noah makes sure the whole arm doesn't go in.....

A history lesson in nature with a tasty ending....what more could you ask for??? 

Can you imagine the time and effort this stuff used to take???

Now a days, the sugar shack is a bit more industrialized...

Hundreds of pancakes served up each minute...they had it down to a fine science...a well-oiled machine!

Served up with equal amounts of whipped local butter

And a look of satisfaction that no store-bought toy, video game device or mass produced food item could provide...mmmmm...

PS.  all four boys (ranging in age of 4 yrs to 13 yrs) were very quiet on the drive home...almost too much fresh air...

If you haven't had the chance...or never thought about taking a trip to the nearest sugar bush...what are you waiting for???

Enjoy some good old Canadian culture, some history and some fresh really will not gain a single calorie from eating fresh pancakes after all the activities to be had.  The Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation area also offered horse drawn wagon rides to the sugar bush!  Nothing signals spring's return like a touch of maple madness.  Oh yeah, that and the robin's sweet song!  

If you need more reasons to indulge in some maple syrup, check out my previous post (original post on December 5, 2010) called "Maple Syrup and the Winter Blues".  It has a scrumptious recipe for protein-packed Quinoa Pancakes as well as a whole bunch of nutritional information about maple syrup as a natural sweetner!

Dig in!

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