Warm temperatures and the sweet smell of syrup drew crowds of people out to local sugar bushes as the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association hosted the fourth annual Maple Weekend Sat., April 6 and Sun., April 7. Maple weekend is a provincial initiative that offers a first-hand look at how maple products are produced, from tree to table. Many of the area’s sugar shacks, three near Chesterville featured below, are open for public visits throughout the spring. Schoch Photos
On the Bend
Started in 2003, On the Bend Sugar Shack features 1000 taps on a high vacuum pipeline and the provinces first wood pellet evaporator. A high efficiency operation located off County Road 11 on 18 acres of sugar bush, On the Bend is owned and operated by Gary and Fay Gallinger and Frank Heerkens.
After retiring from broomball and with too much free time on their hands, Heerkens and Gallinger transformed what was once an old snowmobile camp into a sugar shack.
Many improvements have followed since, including the evaporator, renovations and expansions to the shack and a reverse osmosis machine that filters the sugar water.
It all adds up to a significant investment in money and time.
The past two seasons have rewarded their efforts with more than 540 gallons of maple syrup produced in 2018 and more than 400 in 2017.
Gallinger doesn’t expect a record year like the one experienced in 2018 since their first boil was much later this year.
“I’m thinking this is what an average year should be. Last year was just phenomenal,” he said.
Whatever the quantity expect the highest quality at On the Bend Sugar Shack.
Grampie’s Sugar Shack
When Richard Linton made maple syrup for the last time in 1984, it ended a 50-year family tradition.
In 2010, Oswald Linton, along with his wife Debbie established Grampie’s Sugar Shack at 3788 County Road 8 and rekindled the love affair with syrup.
The family run operation uses modern vacuum lines to collect the sap and a reverse osmosis system but still boils the sap in a traditional wood-fired evaporator to produce excellent quality pure maple syrup.
“Some people swear by it. We make it a little thicker,” said Oswald.
The taste of maple syrup can hinge on many factors including the type of trees, the soil they are located in and how long and how hot the sap is boiled.
“It’s unique to every area. If you go to Southern Ontario it would taste different than this,” said Oswald.
Grampie’s Sugar Shack offers maple syrup, maple butter, and maple sugar candy for purchase on site.
Brian and Trisha Barkley own and operate the Barkleyvale Farms sugar bush, another enterprise deep in family tradition.
Four generations have been involved since 1974. That was the year Brian took a year off after graduating high school and began what is now the third site for maple syrup production in the family sugar bush located off County Road 8.
“The first year we started we hadn’t even really gotten a cover around. We had three walls and a lean-to roof over top,” said Barkley.
The historic log building from the 1860s, now synonymous with the property, was moved and painstakingly reconstructed on site shortly after that.
Barkleyvale combines traditional methods with new technology to produce maple syrup that is all about quality.
“The key thing is making the best quality maple syrup you can. Don’t cut corners and make good quality syrup,” said Barkley. “Everybody has their own system that’s evolved and balanced.”
Maple trees are only a small part of this diverse forest teeming with wildlife, including woodpeckers, nesting barred owls, and moose.