Finally... the combination of sub-zero night time temperatures and sunny above zero conditions have nudged the sleeping sugar maples into Springtime awakening. The distinctive rat-a-tatting of sap falling into rusted and weathered galvanized sap buckets permeates the usual silence of these still snow bound hardwood stands.
The smell of wood smoke fills the air... blended with the sweet perfume of evaporated maple steam eminating from the overhead louvred ventilators atop most sugar shanties. Black-capped Chickadees, my own favourite bird friends... picking up the presence and new activity in the bush dart and dash all around the bush excitedly. Spring is suddenly... literally... in the air ... and everywhere!
Yesterday... I was offered an opportunity to man a shanty during the day time part of the operation at a local producer's bush. I knew very well what that meant. It would mean four to five weeks of gruelling... non-stop work in the shed... feeding the always-hungry hardwood fuelled firebox under the evaporating pan... maintaining a constant flow of new sap to the evaporating pan to replace the ready maple syrup which had to be transferred to an awaiting storage tank to be cooled before being bottled or canned.
When people complain about the exorbitant price of a gallon of maple syrup... I smugly smile... and say nothing that would honour such a statement of complete ignorance of the amount of labour ... and skill that goes into producing a single gallon of maple syrup. It is pure "liquid Canadian gold" - the coin of a realm where one's "work" has no guaranteed hourly wage... no union protection... no paid benefits... no "sick" day considerations... no severance packages... no paid holidays... no government subsidies... none of the side benefits of so many urban job settings.
However... what it does have... is an environment where one can set their own schedule... work from home... with their family members at their side. An environment free of laptop... cell phone and Blackberry interruption and annoyance... replaced by laughter and camaraderie in the company of people that you love and respect... and who conversely... feel the very same way about "You." In simplest terms... "work" to these folk is an avocation - a Life ... as well as a living! And "I" very deeply respect... and cling with them to their value system! Strange...EH?
I have much enjoyed writing these posts dedicated to our unique Canadian rite of Spring... and also sharing my knowledge... experiences and paintings in regards to the making of maple syrup. I have been encouraged... no thrilled to have comments and questions from followers of my blog who knew little of how this North American product was produced. Some have also added their own experiences... while others have set off on a search to find more information on this subject.
This was... and remains the ultimate goal for my creation of "Journaling With Paint". Having a personal forum where "I" can be in touch with other creative minds in a non-threatening and encouraging forum... is an essential part of my need to learn... and to share learning with "Others" who have a shared passion for making Art. One of my visitors and now a friend, Keith Tilley of Scotland asked me what the purpose the cupolas atop each shanty served. So I will respond to his very valid question in response making use of two additional posts.
I had fully intended close out my Maple Syruping series with one more post... Part Five... adding some photos and information to "fill in the blanks" about the actual shanty construction and operation... and a couple of AWBs thrown in! However... due to the considerable interest generated by all of the posts... from different parts of the world... I will extend my discussion and sharing by adding yet another post after the next one.
Being able to share this particularly unique Canadian activity... and the beauty of our seasons and landscape gives me great pleasure. Blogging is a powerful agent for sharing ideas... and for putting one in touch with other cultures and "Ideas" across vast distances. I hop e that my dwelling on this particular topic does not offend... or discourage anyone from visiting further. Be patient... and I'll ramble on to a new topic!
Sweet Dreams... Happy Spring... and Good Painting ... to ALL!