I am fortunate to live near a sugar woods with three active camps. It is just ten minutes from my studio. Every year I go (almost) and every year I come home inspired. It feels like the most natural thing in the world to gather sugar from the maple trees.
What is so inspiring about it is you see people working so hard doing what they love. Most camps have people there lending them a hand. Everyone is working together in the simplest of conditions. People are there making syrup, and have been for generations because they love what they do.
The scent is comforting. The steam is rolling. And people are making…just making.
Most of my morning was spent working on a rug but it was lovely to take a hike this afternoon with members of the local trails society and see the maple syrup and candy being made. I always come home feeling ready to get back to work.
In the first day of spring my husband and daughter joined me for our annual walk into the Sugar Woods. It’s a Cumberland County thing to do.
The road was packed smoothly with snow on that chilly day and it was busy with people of all ages, families spending the day together, children, lots of stollers and dogs too, all going in and out of the woods. Many returnees were enjoying some taffy on a stick or a maple leaf.
There are three camps along Maple Lane, two were boiling that day. The furthest one in is ‘off the grid’ and features an old homemade waterwheel. The ice formations around it were pretty interesting.
We bought treats at each camp as their products differ in darkness. I am told that it has to do with altitude and the sun. Nonetheless, all are yummy.
So again this year, we have Cumberland County maple syrup right out of the woods, to marinate our salmon, add to dressings and baked beans, to top our pancakes, and yes, to sweeten our lives.
March is that time. The Sugar Woods are opened, one of Cumberland County’s sure signs of spring.
When I moved to Amherst many years ago, I knew very little of the maple industry and had never had the experience of walking into the locally named Sugar Woods to enjoy the smells of the sweet evaporator air, to purchase maple leaves, butter, syrup or enjoy some sticky taffy for the walk out.
Going to the Sugar Woods is a tradition for many families in these parts. On Sunday a group of our friends ventured in for our annual pancake and sausage supper at the Donkin’s camp. Twelve of us filled the kitchen as we sat around the table that was covered with syrup, maple butter and their maple barbeque sauce. The food, cooked by Pat and Don was delicious as always, the company wonderful. After our meal, we were as eager as children as we watched Don pour hot syrup on snow so we could roll it up on a stick for a taffy treat.
We discussed the sap run, the temperatures. Cool nights and milder sunny days are the components necessary to make the sap flow. Temperatures that run too cold cease the run and it may or may not start again in the season. ‘God’s will.’ Don said.
We’ll walk into the woods again soon, drop in each camp, enjoy that early spring air, splash in a few puddles along the road and chat with the pedestrian traffic. And if it appears winter like again, we’ll still know that spring is indeed here.