City Mice

Kathryn, Eden and I went to a pancake breakfast and sugar bush tour this weekend out in a place called Shannon, NB.  Google maps doesn’t even know about Shannon, NB, but it was easy enough to find using the map on their website, and it turned out to be quite a nice spot (if you want to see pictures check out Kathryn’s Facebook album, or comment on this post and tell me to post some later).  Somehow, despite the fact that I’m a maritimer, I had never been on a sugar bush adventure before, and I must say it was quite a delight!

Collecting Sap

Before I go any further, I know some of you – like me – may be confused, even disturbed, by the term sugar bush.  There are, in fact, no bushes involved, although there is a substantial amount of sugar.  By briefly consulting Wikipedia, I was able to find out that the term sugar bush probably refers to the fact that most of the maple trees in a typical sugar bush are sugar maples.  This brief article also taught me that a sugar shack is, in fact, a small cabin on or near a sugar bush in which sap is processed into syrup, not a thinly veiled metaphor for a den of promiscuity as I had always imagined for some reason.

The Sugar Shack

Did you know that they need to boil down (concentrate) the sap about 40 times in order to get the finished product?  It’s pretty simple, they basically run the sap through a series of stoves and pipes, stoking a fire underneath to boil the sap, causing the high-density sugariness to travel along the bottom while the water boils/evaporates off the top.  By the time it gets to the bottling stage it’s around 67% sugar – yum!  We gave Eden a taste of it, and she got a little bit frantic trying to grab for more.  Unfortunately, I ended up having to eat most of hers AND mine 😉

Boiling off the water

The pancake breakfast was delicious and hearty.  I think I ate 2 sausages, a slice of ham, a couple of eggs, a muffin, a donut, 2 glasses of apple juice, and about 8 pancakes smothered in fresh maple syrup (FYI ladies, I’m pretty sure I lost about 2 lbs from all that calorie-burning chewing action).  When we arrived at the community centre where the meal was hosted, Kathryn and I looked at each other and said “Uh oh… did you bring cash?” Sure enough, the breakfast was 10 dollars each and we only had a grand total of $17 between us.  When I asked the lady (Ruth) with the tin box full of cash at the entrance, “Uh… suppose I can’t pay with credit or debit here…is there anywhere nearby where we could withdraw some cash?” she looked at me blankly for a second, hardly stifled a burst of laughter, turned her head towards the entrance to the adjoining room and hollered, “Susan, ‘dyou hear that?  They wanna know if we take debit or credit!”.  She then turned back to me and, in a tone that I imagine one uses when speaking to a half-dead plant, said “No.  Where are you from?”

“Well, we’re living in Fredericton right now…”

“Ah…well, this is the country”

(Sheepish grin)

Apparently the nearest place to get cash was about 45 minutes away round-trip, but after watching us pathetically tally up change from our pockets while scratching our heads, she agreed to let us in on the condition that we pay the remaining 3 dollars when we return next year.  It was really kind of her, and I told her not to worry: I’d only eat 85% of what I could, in proportion to our payment (didn’t really follow through with that…whoops!).  Ruth ended up sitting next to us for most of the meal and we had a grand old chat about rural life.  I’m sure I have a romantic notion of what rural life is really like, but I honestly think I would enjoy it.  There’s nothing quite like being in the country, breathing the fresh air, surrounded by trees and hills and water, wondering about the stories behind all the decrepit buildings and cemetaries… someday maybe we’ll live in a place like that.

Collecting the cooled candy off the snow

For now, it’s hard to say what our future holds.  I found out this week that it is “not possible” for MUN to offer me a seat this year, which was a bit of a let-down since I’d felt so good about that school.  I guess I just have such an admiration for Wilfred Grenfell, and I thought that having spent a significant amount of time in Labrador would set me apart from other New Brunswickers.  Alas, I’m still on the wait list for Dal and I’ll give them until at least mid-April before I consider withdrawing my name.  I would hate to miss a chance at going because of withdrawing myself, but on the other hand I just want to know what I’ll be doing in the next year or so, and I’m okay with not getting in this fall, if it comes down to it.

The "sugar bush"

Thanks to all of you who’ve posted on our last few entries, we really appreciate the comments and discussion and hope it keeps going.  Feel free to share your thoughts on sugar shacks, rural living, wait lists, or any topic that this post has brought to mind.  If you want pictures (because you aren’t Kathryn’s Facebook friend or something) let me know and I’ll throw a few on here.  A la prochaine!

*** I scolded Tim for posting this without photos. I guess he doesn’t know blog etiquette. The readers want photos right?

Eden tasting the candy

One thought on “City Mice

  1. I hope some day you don’t have to live in a decrepit building. A decrepit cemetary, perhaps, but hopefully long after you’re dead.

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