Maple syrup season is almost over, which means that the sugar shacks will soon be closing their doors.
Luckily, this spring, the members of my family who are based near Shaw’s Sugar Bush (watch the video about how do what they do), a 104-year-old maple syrup farm down the 14th Line, near Orillia, finally followed through on what has become an on-again, off-again tradition. Last weekend, we gathered for pancakes soaked in the sweet gleaming gold from our region’s special trees.
In the barn-like restaurant, we sat at a long table beneath historical photographs and watched the staff steadily serving French toast, sausages, maple baked beans, maple tea, spiced apple cider and other tasty elements of Canadian cuisine. After committing that classic eyes-bigger-than-the-stomach sin, my nephews, my sister, her husband, my mom, my step-dad, Jason and I wattled wandered out back to leisurely work off at least a fraction of those big buttermilk pancakes.
Tall, grey maples stood over a carpet of dead leaves, spotted with bunches of pale purple, white and yellow flowers, the first colour of the season.
We stood back as a team of Percheron horses pulled a wagon past us, following a 1.6 kilometre loop through the trees, roped together by the green tubing (they don’t actually use buckets anymore) that collects the precious sap. My nephews ran ahead and, in a moment of sugar-fueled-Indiana-Jones-adrenaline that only small boys and mothers with threatened children can muster, actually jumped on the wagon…
As the morning steadily promised to be a glorious day, J. and I said goodbye to go home and work on our garden and get busy refurbishing our thirsty canoe, in preparation for other eagerly-awaited warm-weather adventures.
Shaw’s is open for one more weekend. Visit their site for a menu and more information.
Photos by Lauren Carter