Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Was it really a banner year for maple syrup production?

Surprisingly, 2013 at the Deakins sugar bush was a banner year for maple syrup production. In one run 180 two gallon buckets produced 324 gallons of sap with sugar content measuring 3.3%. In another run sugar content reached a hitherto unheard of 3.9% (2.4% being the average).

I say surprisingly because, according to some, this was supposed to be the year that wasn’t.

Last fall, in response to the summer drought, the agro forestry branch of Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) collected province-wide bud and twig samples to determine levels of stored starch in sugar maple trees. The amount of starch in maple trees in the fall is considered a predictor of sap production for the following spring. The shockingly low levels reported by OMAFRA to the locals of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association (OMSPA) consequently prompted the following recommendations:
·      tapping only trees with a minimum diameter of 30 centimeters (as opposed to the customary 25 centimeters
·      limiting each tree to only one tap
·      considering suspending tapping for the 2013 season

Experts explained that customary tapping practices may put Ontario’s maple trees at risk. Ordinarily, maple trees give up about 4% – 7% of their sap during maple syrup time. While trees may produce the same amount of sap as in years past, that amount, unlike in other years, may represent 25% of trees’ (especially young trees) total reserve.  This fact along with the extensive winter damage of young trees by feeding deer and the uncharacteristically early fall drop of maple leaves is causing maple syrup farmers to hope and pray for good growing weather this spring to ensure the recovery of sugar maple stocks.

Having done my part by limiting my tapping practices this spring, I’m banking on nature’s resilience and praying that our banner year hasn’t come at a high cost. In the short term at least, our guests will continue to enjoy high quality syrup at breakfast and  still be able to take home souvenir packages.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Why we Operate a B and B

Perhaps there is no topic more appropriate for our first ever blog than to answer for our readers the question we’ve been asked umpteen times since we opened our first B and B in 1993 - Whatever prompted you to operate a B and B?
Even now, as I broach the topic, I see the myriad of expressions on your faces as you posed that question – incredulity, curiosity, expectancy, admiration, and yes, do I detect even pity?

Our desire to run a B and B stems largely, I imagine, from the delightful encounters we’ve experienced with B and B owners in our travels all over the world. One of my favourite memories is of a two-day farm stay just outside of Hamilton New Zealand in 2000. When the owners discovered that we were considering (the kind of consideration that falls in the category of wild fantasy) overwintering in New Zealand, they invited us to dinner and also their neighbours, Canadians who had themselves just recently moved to the north island and were doing precisely what we were proposing to do. Our evening ended perfectly when the owner graciously accepted Mary Helen’s offer to decorate their Christmas tree. I wasn’t at all surprised recently when I googled Carmel Farms only to find that Barbara and Leo Anselmi after these many years are still welcoming travellers to their farm near Te Kuiti, New Zealand.

To some extent I think that running a B and B initially satisfied Mary Helen’s desire for familial intimacy – the sort you experience when all the rabbits in the neighbourhood come to afternoon tea.  You may laugh at the comparison, but I think there is truth in it. There is something quite personal and delicious and satisfying about sharing who you are with strangers from half way around the world even if it’s only for a day or two.

Our travel experiences have taught us that we want to be an intricate part of our guests’ experiences when they stay with us. For this reason our bed and breakfast experience is engaging, immersive and as hands-on as possible. We seek to provide encounters, interactions and moments that will leave our travellers with lasting memories. And our commitment extends beyond our doors. Through our suggested itineraries we connect our experiential travellers to our special people, places and cultures in the region.

In closing, let me ask our readers, Why do you chose to stay in B and B’s?