43 Queen St, Manitowaning, Ontario, Canada - (705) 859-1820
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Earth Art Stream - The Maple Syrup Harvest 2015

One of the first outdoor programs and the most eagerly anticipated activity in late March - is harvesting maple sap. We made it through the winter and the feeling of a new year coming on mother earth, gives us strength and dreams of an abundant harvest.

We are surrounded by a symphony of the sound of the sap, drip, drip drop… drip drop dropping! Drop drip. Hundreds of musical notes naturally play throughout the sugar bush – as the sap hits the liquid in the pale below, in hundreds of pales all around us. We work hard to avoid the slopping sound….precious sap tipping out of the pale if we walk too quickly, forgetting the balance in the pale.

Everywhere, the early signs of Spring are poking through and emerging from the melting snow. The cold cloak of winter has receded, puddles of water appear in the snow as the sun warms through the day. Little streams and rivers begin to appear - everywhere. The ground is wet and we see damp muddy earth in our footsteps. We are all kitted out with rubber boots, like a Spring uniform. We see the influence of style, as some choose to roll their black boot tops down, revealing the white thin cotton lining inside the boot and several layers of warm and wooley socks, others wear the green rubber boot with thermal liners. At the start of the day we know two things. We will warm up to the point of feeling hot. Our winter jackets will come off, we will be tempted to remove our wet gloves and carry the buckets by their steel handles. I will remind everyone to keep their gloves on to protect their hands. Some will remember to bring dry socks and gloves. Most won’t. The pull of being back outside, feeling the sun on our skin after a long cold winter, over powers the practical….”stay warm and dry”.

We will all end the day smelling of the smoke from the fire. It will permeate everything. It is a favorite smell. Everyone at Debaj can recognize the people coming and going from the sugar bush. The days begin at sunrise and the final pot of sap is taken off the fire at sunset. Throughout the day, some people are chopping wood, others taking turns collecting the pales, carefully walking back to the sugar shack without spilling a drop. All of the work involved in making syrup is very satisfying and physically demanding. Whether people are chopping, carrying or stirring over the fire, the sap which is transforming slowly into a light, golden syrup – from three huge cast iron pots, suspended over fire with thick chains, everyone knows that making syrup takes a lot of work. Everyone vows to respect real maple syrup, never will the French toast or pancakes be so soggy with syrup, that left over syrup would get washed down the drain.

This whole adventure in annual sap making is a practical reminder of one of our historical teachings, the legend of the Maple Tree. It teaches our students to apply the things they are learning from our program to the things they are doing that are important to them. When we learn about the seven values, we see ourselves in the doing, we can see and feel where we can grow in patience, compassion, courage, truth, trust, respect and love. We affirm through this, that life takes effort, having the things that we want will require something from us, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.