MAPLE LOVERS NEWSLETTER
My father (a.k.a. Bill) wrote the first Maple Lovers Newsletter spring of 1996 making this edition the 24th! As you may recall, he began producing maple syrup for retail sales in 1995 as a retirement hobby. As his interest in the industry grew deeper, the number of taps increased in our sugar bush, and with me, Sarah, coming on board as a full-time employee, the retirement hobby of producing maple syrup became the second business at Gibbons Family Farm. Spring 2019 marks our 25th season!
The biggest challenge facing maple syrup producers today is extreme weather changes. For example, looking back at our 2018 season, February was a very mild month with more rain than snow. I especially remember one mid-February day when it was raining – not drizzling, not lightly raining, but pelting rain! My father and I were working in the sugar bush, soaking wet, but not cold as it was +12ºC! Why were we working in the rain in the middle of February one might ask? Because by 8 am the next day it was to
be -5ºC, feeling like -10ºC, followed by perfect sap running conditions within 48 hours. A piece of broken pipeline needed to be fixed before the freeze in order to catch the first run of sap. And we caught it! Our first 2018 sap boil was on February 25th and when the season ended on March 27th, we were very pleased with the quantity and quality of maple syrup produced.
Spring of 2019 will most likely be another year of working in and around extreme weather changes. However, it will also be one beginning with a unique situation: an enormous squirrel problem. In October of 2018, the time of year when we flush the pipeline with water, Bill was the first one to discover major holes in the pipeline caused by squirrels chewing the lines. Initial thoughts: not a problem as squirrel damage naturally occurs each year and we will fix the chews before flushing the lines. After two weeks of working daily in the sugar bush repairing the visible squirrel chews, we had 6 of 12 mainlines with lateral lines ready to go for washing. Hooking up the first repaired mainline to the pipeline washer, within minutes our hearts sank – the damage was beyond what we could see or imagine. Only under water pressure could we also see all the tiny pin holes caused by the sharp teeth of the squirrels -- our sap collecting pipeline system was now a glorified sprinkler. My father had never seen anything like this before.
Since October we have continued working in the sugar bush whenever possible repairing kilometer upon kilometer of damaged pipeline. This process is labour intensive, weather dependent, and time consuming BUT the good news is, we have made progress! There is still repair work to be done; however, bring on the warm days and cold nights for the sap to flow again. We are anxious to light the fire in the evaporator and taste our 25th season’s maple syrup.
Maple syrup as a dipper? A long-time mail order customer shared this grilled cheese condiment idea with me. Instead of ketchup, try dipping your grilled cheese sandwich in slightly warmed maple syrup. “Don’t knock it until you try it” she says! All I have to say is: DELICIOUS! It’s worth a try!
Lastly, we welcome you to visit any time this maple syrup production season. Come for a chat, come for a taste. Our traditional Saturday Maple Days include fresh maple syrup and maple products, maple taffy, pancakes, and an art gallery open house – a ‘Sweet Ontario’ spring! Please see the EVENTS page for complete details.
‘Sweet Maple’ regards!
View past issues of the newsletter
Brockville Recorder & Times newspaper articles on:
The 2013 maple syrup season
Gibbons Family Farm
41 Leacock Road, RR 1
For more information:
Toll Free 1-877-440-7887