Sub-zero nights, sunshine days...here in southern New Brunswick, the maple sap is flowing like the Bay of Fundy. Spring is here.
Time for the sugar bush. A rite of spring here in the north. The work started weeks ago as the trees were tapped, lines strung and cans hung.
Now, curls of steam and smoke rise above the maple groves like signal fires. Some sugar shacks are new...like this one. See how straight it looks?
Inside, a shiny new evaporator boils the water from the sweet tree nectar. The sap works its way through compartments in the boiling pan, gradually becoming thicker and thicker as the water turns to steam, leaving the golden syrup behind.
The outside temperatures have been perfect and the sap has been running so fast that evaporators have been boiling all through the night for the past week, just to keep up.
This is a spile, drilled into the tree. The sap drips out into the bucket....drip...drip...drip...
In a small sugar bush, the sap cans are emptied by hand. On a larger property on a slope, it's much easier to have lines running from tree to tree down the hill, carrying the sap directly to the sugar shack.
This is one of my favourite sugar camps...big on character, light on square angles. I'd lean a bit too if I'd seen as many springs as it has....There's no better place to be, on a fine sunny, warm day.
Inside, the firebox is stoked full to the brim, heating the evaporator.
The evaporator cannot be left unmonitored. If it threatens to boil over, someone has to be there to drop in a pat of butter to stop the foam.
This evaporator is well over 60 years old. Come to think of it, so are the two guys watching the boil.
This is the fine part...after the hard work is done...the sap cans have been emptied into the storage barrel, the firebox is filled and sap is set to heat in the boiling pan. Now the guys can sit back and watch.
This is when you hear the very best stories. This is when the laughter starts.
Of course, then...there is supper at the sugar bush....ladling warm syrup right from the pan...but that's another story.
No wonder we look forward to spring.
This is Heaven.