A father set out to go hunting early one spring morning.
“Can I come with you?” his son asked.
His father shook his head. “No, you are still too young,” he replied. “It is better you stay home and help your mother.”
Disappointed, the boy watched his father leave. His mother handed him a birchbark bucket and told him to collect water from the nearby stream. The boy took along his tomahawk to practice his throwing skills, hoping to impress his father with his skills when he returned. As he walked, the boy threw the tomahawk into the many stumps he passed. When it wedged fast into a tall sugar maple, the boy struggled to remove it. He pulled and pulled, but the small axe was wedged tight. In exhaustion, the boy sat under the tree to think on how he could get the tomahawk out and fell fast asleep.
The boy woke a few hours later with a start. He knew his mother would be wondering where he was with the water, so he jumped up and grabbed the bucket to continue to the stream. To his surprise, the bucket was full. He raced back to his mother and presented her with the birchbark bucket. That night’s dinner was one of the best they had ever had.
“Where did you get the water from?” his mother asked the boy.
He took her to where the tomahawk was wedged into the tree. Sap flowed from the wound it had made. They realized that the tree’s water was sweet and the tapping of maple trees began.
This legend of how the First Nations people came to discover maple syrup is told at the Kinsmen Fanshawe Sugar Bush each spring. A historical display is set up to show you how the tapping of maple trees has changed over the years. You can dip your fingers into one of the over 1200 buckets that collect sap, while you listen to a guide explain how the process of making maple syrup has changed; from hot rocks dropped into carved out logs filled with sap, through cauldrons hung over outdoor fires in the 1800s, into more modern times when flat pans, then evaporators were used to extract the sweet liquid into our favourite breakfast treat—maple syrup.
One thing hasn’t changed though; our appreciation of Acer saccharum (sugar maple trees). The tapping of sugar maple trees in the spring is a tradition that people can never get enough of. Out at Kinsmen, over 1000 people a day flock to the sugar bush to sample the Kinsmen’s pancakes and take home some maple syrup of their own. They are open from 9am – 4pm every day during March Break and every weekend in March. All proceeds collected from the $10 per carload entry fee ($3 for adults and $2 for children), go back into the community, as the Kinsmen Sugar Bush is entirely run by volunteers. Between the horse-drawn wagon rides, guided tours, educational displays and walking trails, there is plenty to see and do.
As spring weather has arrived though, don’t forget one thing—appropriate footwear. The warmer weather makes for a pretty muddy walk. A little mud is more than worth it for the sweet taste of spring with the family though.