A Very Canadian Day
February 28, 2010
The new snow had all the charm of a wet flannel shirt on a cold day. Mention of cleaning the driveway should bring visions of white, sparkling rooster tails arching to the treetops against an azure sky. What the week actually brought, however, were dull clouds and mud balls and a blower gagging out liquid snow, occasionally punctuated by a blast of gravel. There’s no satisfaction in this.
Charlie and his pals had tapped the woodlot last weekend. Of course the sap didn’t run because it was too early, but they were keen to experiment. Then on Friday it started.
So here I was with buckets overflowing in the woods and the kids coming on Sunday to make syrup. I decided I’d better pack a track around the woodlot so that they could gather with the Ranger. Two hours of work produced little gain. One area of deep slush was impassible for the tractor. Snow that you can’t pack into a road is just no good.
Then three carloads of crew showed up: Charlie, Anneli, Martin, Anne-Claire, Rob, Derek, Brian, Allison and Jeff. The sun came out and the temperature rose. Martin had acquired a large supply of 16 litre shortening pails with lids which he insisted could be installed and removed easily. He planned to gather the sap from the buckets in these containers, put the lids on, and haul them to the shanty in the back of the Ranger. Figuring I’d be soaked from slopping pails before long, I loaded Derek and Anne-Claire onto the Ranger and blasted back the crude trail to deliver the empties. The UV pawed its way over slush which had defeated the tractor. Interesting.
The crew swarmed around the maples, draining buckets into pails at a frightening pace. Where do they get the energy? Martin proved his point that the UV’s bed will hold more sap in pails than in a 50 gallon drum. They loaded them up and turned me around on the trail. Back we went to the shack to try out the new arch Peter Myers had made for us.
Fire-starter Rob laid a work of art in the cavernous firebox and set it alight. Before long the sap began to boil and we retired to the house for the 3 o’clock Gold Medal Hockey Game. We calculated that the optimum time to refill the firebox was every twenty minutes, so stokers alternated throughout the game. The arch worked very well.
Derek commented: “Here we are, boiling maple syrup, eating Tim Horton’s and watching a gold medal hockey game. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more Canadian.” Bet and Mom served a buffet during the third period.
Then the U.S. tied the game with a few seconds left.
I could taste the irony. Disasters travel in threes, right? I didn’t want #3 to be a U.S. victory, but I particularly didn’t want to have to admit that the pan burned dry because the game went into overtime. Out I went to check, and surely enough, the sap was down to ½”, a critical level. We quickly lifted the pan off the fire and returned to the game.
On our way back in to the house, Martin quipped: “If ever there was an appropriate time to let the pan run dry, it would be during overtime in a gold medal game.” But there’s never an appropriate time for that.
Surely enough, with disaster #2 averted, #3 didn’t happen, either. Crosby fired a blind shot at the net and Miller missed it. Canada had won gold.
Anne-Claire: “You couldn’t have scripted a better ending than Crosby getting the winning goal in overtime. When he was a shy teenager, I once served him a steak at The Keg in Halifax.”
Probably we’ll all remember where we were when Crosby fired the shot. We’ll have a hard time avoiding the day’s photos. Many of the crew had cameras along, and the light was good.
The kids may have tapped way too early and the snow was a drag, but we had a great afternoon. I wonder if some of them will come upon these photos in twenty or thirty years and marvel at the youth, vigour and beauty the camera captured in them on this day.
Check out Rob Ewart’s outstanding photos of the day: