Every spring around late March or early April, Paula, Stacey and I would trudge back to the bush armed with maple – tree – tapping gear.
I had modified a chainsaw so that it could drill the holes in the trees .. and that was about the only thing that was automated in our maple syrup making operation.
Paula would follow me and insert a tablet into the hole of the tree which prevent bacteria from forming and tainting the sap. Stacey hammered the spiggot into the tree from which bucket would hang and collect the sap.
We used to tap around 200 tap-holes each spring and use the snowmobile while there was snow to collect the sap – and the tractor after the snow melted.
It was a very rustic set up but we all loved it – except for the days when the spring turned into a winter storm – and the sap froze in the buckets. That became quite difficult to collect.
I would often have to stay up all night to boil the sap in my wood-fired evaporator in the bush to keep up with the sap run. Sap could not stay in the buckets for long as it would “ferment”.
One day, a partridge appeared near the sugar shanty. This bird was very tame and it had no hesitation in approaching people. I would often be busy boiling the sap and the vapour would be rushing out through the open roof when I ‘d look up and spot that dumb bird on the edge of the roof peering down into the vat of boiling sap. Had he taken one false step – we would have had boiled partridge to eat that night – but he was pretty sure footed and sure – beaked to boot.
On one occasion, my good friend Floyd came to visit. It was a lovely day that day. I would often keep beer in the snow bank to keep it cold and since there was no electricity – there was no refrigeration system. Mother Nature would always provide.
We got a little thirsty working so hard boiling the sap and so I asked Floyd to get us a beer out of the snow bank.
He went outside to grab a beverage, but when he bent over to pick up the beer from the snow bank, the bird pecked him in the butt.
Floyd jumped, ran frantically into the sugar shanty and said, “I”ll be damned. I’ve heard of guard dogs before – but I’ve never heard of a guard bird!”
Floyd did not venture near the snow bank without guarding his butt ever again!