Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sugar bush

We're in the thick of March Break here, and have been busy cramming as much action-packed fun into each day as possible. I did want to take a break to post about what we did today though, because it's something you can only do for a few weeks each year and I'd really urge anyone looking for some fun family entertainment to consider this.Today I took the kids to the McLachlan Family Maple Syrup Camp and Pancake House in Komoka, a little bit west of north London. How have I hit the age of thirty-five, having spent my whole life in Canada, and never visited a sugar bush before? It seemed like an appropriate March Break activity and the weather man promised that today would be ideal. It rained all morning and in fact, as we drove up to Komoka, we were driving back into the storm. But after stopping in London to run a few errands - (tangent time. Today I took the kids into Memory Lane. Is that nuts or what? Would you take a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old into an antiques mall? How many times did I say don't-touch-stop-running-look-OUT!!?? But it was actually a lot of fun. They really enjoy looking around places like that, places that are so crammed full of stuff, and they love spotting things that tickle their fancy like the vintage Mickey Mouse phone and the clock shaped like an apple. We didn't break anything so we didn't have to buy anything, though unfortunately, I also didn't find the devilled egg plate that I would like to have in my possession before Easter - I thought those things are everywhere, and perhaps they are. Just not when you are looking for them.) - ANYWAY - the sun was shining brightly by the time we came out of Old Navy with a few getting-ready-for-warmer-weather items in hand, and it turned into a glorious spring day to go watch the sap run.
I did a lot of internet research before we went, comparing the various sugar bushes in our neck of the woods and trying to pick out the one with the most to see and do. But let me tell you - sugar bushes really do not have much of an internet presence. Most of them have a small write up that says something like "Fun for the whole family!" without spelling out what that fun is. If I'm going to drive for an hour for some pancakes, I want to know what else I'm getting.In this case, the gamble paid off. We arrived with empty tummies and immediately headed into the pancake house for brunch. Liam ate more than Mallory and I combined. (I just don't understand how he functions sometimes.) We had a full spread of pancakes, sausage, ham, maple baked beans, hash browns, and fruit, washed down by McDonald's Orange Drink, which felt a little incongruous but who am I to complain? $10 for adults and $6 for kids. Liam ate his own; Mallory and I split the adult plate.

I love pancakes but never order them when we go out because the vast majority of places don't serve them with real maple syrup, and I hate table syrup. I'll be accusatory here: I am not 100% convinced that the McLachlan Family Maple Syrup Camp and Pancake House serves 100% real maple syrup with their pancakes. It didn't taste like the stuff I am accustomed to. I suppose I should give them the benefit of the doubt, but with the weird aftertaste lingering in my mouth, I didn't buy a souvenir bottle to bring home.Bellies comfortably full, we headed back outside to partake in the fun stuff. The kids could not keep their eyes off the Clydesdales so we immediately boarded the horse-drawn wagon for a ride. $1 for adults, 50 cents for the kids.After that, my favourite part of the day. There are 3km of wood-chip trails through the bush where you can get up close and personal with the tapping process. The taps close to the pancake house all drip into sap buckets, the old-fashioned way. Those further back in the bush are connected with clear vacuum-powered lines that let you see the sap running through them. You can hear the sap whooshing. It's pretty cool.The small lines connect into larger-diameter lines to bring the sap back to the boiler room at the front of the property. This is where my knowledge of pipeline operations came in super handy. I was talking to the kids about the sap laterals and how they loop from the distribution network into the high-pressure transmission line. I don't think they really got it though.It was one of those days when it finally hits fifty degrees and you can actually allow yourself to believe that winter might end sometime soon. There were little streams of meltwater forming across the trails and the kids had a fabulous time splashing about in their new rainboots. The sky was blue and Liam came home with a noticeable uptick in the number of freckles on his nose. I think my Vitamin D levels may have finally been restored to normal, and I just might survive this winter after all.Following the trail led us up to the boiler room where the sap actually gets condensed into maple syrup.If I'd been thinking straight, I would have stuck my camera on a tree stump, set the self-timer and gotten a shot of us in the bush. But it didn't occur to me until we were well on our way home. Our own driveway would have to suffice for the self-portrait.Chad just looked over my shoulder and asked why I'm writing about the sugar bush when I haven't written about anything else we've done this week. It's been a busy week, and part of it was even featured on TV! I've guess I've chosen to spend my time living it instead of writing it, but more will be coming soon.


dad said...

Looks like you had a nice day!
But, those horses in the picture look more like Belgians than Clydes.

Carrie said...

I will defer to your farming expertise on that one. All I know is that they were big.

You're just lucky I didn't call them Palominos.

Anonymous said...

sounds like you guys had a blast, thank you for taking the time to post, i am also doing some research online to see which sugar bush i should be taking my family too, this was helpful.