Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sap... is indeed runnin! - Part Four

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!


  1. Oh my, Bruce, you do have a way with words as well as a way with paint! Again you have captured far more than just a 'scene'! I can feel and smell spring in the air! Yes, I WILL venture out!

    I have to say, although I am a hardcore bargain hunter, I never complain about the price of maple syrup. When the price spikes, I know someone has had to work extra hard to provide that gallon of liquid gold. Really, it's a privilege to contribute toward a whole lifestyle that I admire...

  2. Hi Bruce ... another enjoyable read and another mental image - the rattling of sap falling into metal buckets. This all helps to build a fascinating impression of your Canadian world.

    All the best,

  3. Thank you for the more detailed account of how the maple syrup is brought to our table. The first photo shows us the spout which looks deep inside the trunk of the maple, then you tell us more. Do you think you will go and work in the shed for all of those days it does sound hard work. The last photo of the tree is really beautiful it has a fine shape to it. Funny to hear you say spring is with you, yet the white stuff is still with you! maybe you will find a daffodil soon. Beautiful paintings Bruce. What a interesting blog, thank you.

  4. Thank "You"... ever so much for your very kind compliments Bridget!

    Having them offered by such a creative person such as your self... with your own gifts and accomplishments makes them even more deeply felt and appreciated! Thank "You"!

    It seems that we "paddle our craft" in much the same way... and that our values and common desire to share with others runs in parallel! A comforting thought... in such troubling times!

    Good Painting and Writing!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Hi there Keith!... How rewarding it is to share my Ontario Spring with "You"... in your own beautiful kingdom of Scotland... with all of its own unique beauty... traditions and rituals!

    Having my roots in that kingdom... and being able to visit it and experience firsthand these unique qualities was a blessing in itself.

    Being able to stand beside the fireplace at Drumrannie in Girven... and visit the rose garden where my maternal grandparents were married brought mu circle a round full measure.

    I am so pleased that my images and words are building impressions of Canada... evn from this distance. I was not making idle chat when I extended the hospitality of our humble home and means Keith.

    You and your wife have a standing invitation to visit... whenever you might have the opportunity or desire to come here to see Canada for your Self!Any time!

    Thanks for your visit and for your thoughtful and encouraging words!

    Good Painting... and Happy Spring!
    Warmest regards,

  6. Hi Carolyn!... Thank "You" for your keen observations and comments! I much appreciate and look forward to our "conversations"!

    Spring this year does in fact have lots of snow remaining... but the vacillating periods of sun and rain over the past three days is eating into that condition very quickly.

    I will be unable to take advantage of the opportunity to "tend shop" at the shanty. I have a reason that I will share with all of you on my next post! Stay tuned...

    I spent a lovely day in my favourite bush... The McCutcheons... Renee and Ken... on their 9th Line Oro farm. lots of interesting pix to share next post!

    Good Painting and Happy Spring to the Highland Lass!

    Warmest regards,

  7. Ahhhh...these paintings are such a delight, Bruce. Your second paragraph...just such a fabulous visceral load of the senses. Oh to be able to visit one of these during the running of the sap...

  8. Hi there Sherry!... Always a delight for "Me" to discover a comment in my "post" box... from "You"!

    That statement is true... simply because "We" share parallel journeys that cross all barriers... because our minds... thoughts... "Ideas" and sensibilities invite sharing and an open forum with others we trust to search for Truth and Learning!

    It indeed warms my heart to hear that my Two Voices work in tandem... to express the joy under which I live here in the Oro-Medonte. "I" truly hope that my posts will continue to encourage "You" and others of kindred spirit... to build further... and be proud of their own gifts and talents! "I" see them... and respect them!

    Good Painting and Writing! Happy Spring!
    Warmest regards,

  9. Hi Bruce,

    Thank you for the education on maple syrup. I had no idea and have a new appreciation for the process and the very hard work that goes into it. How wonderful when you describe the camraderie and an environment free of cell phones, laptops,etc. This sounds like a very special time with very special people that do this work. Thank you for enlightening me on one of my very favorite things, maple syrup.

    Best to you,


  10. Hi there Sue!... Thank "You"... for visiting and for acknowledging the learning opportunity that I offered!

    Blogging is such a wonderful... non-threatening medium to interact and share knowledge across vast distances and very different lifestyles.

    It is my pleasure to have "You" visit my site... and for "Me" to visit yours. I always come away moved... and admiring you more each visit... for your knowledge of animals... and your wonderful ability to capture their likenesses and personalities.

    Such a nice way for hands... to reach across borders... in friendship! Thank "You"... for yours!

    Good Painting!... and Happy Spring!
    Warmest regards,

  11. Bruce,
    I love this post and I love Maple Syrup. If that's what you grew up on, you can't eat the fake (corn syrup) stuff.
    What dedication!!
    You are in for a treat on your vacation to Barbados!! Have a great time.

  12. Well a Big HELLO there Mary!... Glad that "You" are enjoying the maple Sugaring series! It's just as sweet and tasty for "Me" as well!

    Aunt Jemima just doesn't cut it in these parts! This syrup is... as I earlier said... Liquid Canadian Gold... high octane breakfast fuel! HAHA!!

    A McCutcheon bottle will be accompanying us to the Barbados... as well as a batch of maple sugar candy and maple butter. Chef Bruce will be throwin' down a totally Canadian Breakfast Hoedown for the gang there!

    Hey... that's sharin' the love... of Spring! EH?

    Thanks for the visit and your kind comments and interest Mary. Be over to visit today!

    Good Painting! ... and Happy Spring!

    Warmest regards,