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Sweetest County harvest welcomes spring

Maple on snow (taffy) was a big hit at Waupoos Estates Winery.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Warm days and cold nights make for perfect maple syrup production and the crowds that poured in for Maple in the County celebrations were pleased with what they tasted.

Now in its 17th year, Maple in the County featured 12 sugarbushes and 23 other businesses including wineries, breweries and one artisanal distillery.

Maple syrup is the first harvest of the season and often referred to as the sweetest, too. The tradition of collecting maple water (sap) and boiling it down to thicken into syrup (‘sugaring off’) is a long one as 40 litres of sap are needed to create one litre of syrup.

A few local maple syrup operations have been producing the delicious amber liquid for more than a century. One of the largest County operations participating has more than 8,000 taps; the smallest 500 taps.

Sap has been running in the County since February, but maple season is short, typically lasting about six weeks. This year’s Maple in the County saw the launch of a new grading system, standardized for the first time, across North America. The former five shades are being replaced to “golden, amber, dark or very dark. Grades are determined by a colour comparison chart.

Some of the proceeds from the PEC Firefighters’ all-day pancake breakfast at Loha Farms went to the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital.

Six of the participating sugarbushes held all-day pancake breakfasts all weekend long, including Loha Farms, on Lucks Crossroads near Picton. Loha, in its second year with Maple in the County, hosts the Prince Edward County Fire Department pancake breakfast with a portion of the proceeds going to the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Evaporator at Loha running full steam ahead

Maple syrup production was in full swing at Loha Farms with the evaporator running from early in the morning Saturday boiling down the gathered sap into syrup. Described as a “maple sauna” by some of the visitors, the small steamy room smelled sweetly as many gathered around the warmth of the wood-fired evaporator to escape the chill of the day.

John Scott demonstrates his skill floating in a dry suit.

Five-year-old Rosalie Rosborough and her one-year-old brother, Duncan, of Picton, explored the animal pens at Loha Farms.

Goats, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens and rabbits were also well received, especially by the little ones.

For those feeling daring, the fire department had a large pool set up to demonstrate cold water rescue. There was no shortage of volunteers – adults and children alike – willing to don the ‘dry suit’ and enter the pool of freezing cold water to float on their back assisted by a local firefighter. The fire department estimated the temperature of the water to be around -6 to -10 degrees Celsius yet all participants reported feeling dry and warm in the dry suit and were in no hurry to leave the pool.

With snow in short supply for this year’s maple celebration, Waupoos Estates Winery – celebrating 25 years in business this year – located enough of the white stuff with the help of a sno-cone maker to serve up mouth-watering sticks of maple taffy. Their evaporator was also up and running, and filled with visitors.

Goats, and sheep, at Waupoos Estates Winery were stars of the outdoor fun.

The barn on site was a popular destination for visits with baby lambs and goats. Children delighted in feeding and meeting the animals. Along with bleating goats, baa-ing lambs and squawking chickens, hens and geese, many of the smaller children squealed in tandem, excited at being able to enter the enclosure and run around with many of the barnyard animals.

Family-friendly activities continued throughout the busy weekend and included a lumberjack show, wagon rides, barbeques, artisan vendors, self-guided sugarbush and sugar shack tours, hiking trails and lots of maple-related goodies to eat and drink.

All participating venues were accepting donations of non-perishable food items and cash to be distributed to the Wellington and Picton foodbanks.

Maxx Wanamaker, of Picton, enjoyed a moment in the sunshine with his dad, during Maple in the County celebrations.



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