This weekend I'm in my childhood home: a tiny lobster fishing village of 500 people in rural Nova Scotia. A few years ago, a local lobster fisherman decided, for fun, to start tapping some maple trees and making some maple syrup. Traditionally, Acadians have been tapping and making maple syrup and 'la tire' for centuries (it's definitely not the monopoly of the Québécois). When I was younger, there were several 'Cabane à sucre' in the area, but that had gone to the way-side.
(the back of the Sugar Shack, with the vats for the raw maple sap to feed into the cooker)
(The fisherman had asked he not be named, as he is not doing this for publicity)
(A tree with the tap in his backyard!)
Until this lobster fisherman and his family started boiling syrup in their shed just because. They bottled it and gave it away for free and in return several families along the village road started adding buckets to their trees. After a few years it became evident that the syrup was bringing the community together and the fisherman decided to expand.
(The inside of the Sugar Shack: on the right is the cooker (and the back of my dad lol)- see below- and on the left is another stove to check the temperature with a candy thermometer and a filtering station)
(There are three sections where the sap is slowly boiled at increasingly higher temperatures to thicken the syrup by increasing the sugar content until it comes out of the spigot at the end once it's reached about 219 degrees)
Today was the grand finale where the last batch was cooked and poured over snow to make taffy. A fisherman from a neighbouring village came to carve an eagle out of wood with his chainsaw. As the snow gently fell, it was a beautiful moment where neighbours and families gathered to chat and children learned and played.
(Mother and daughter are busy pouring the syrup for lines of adults and children to eat their taffy- it was delicious!)
(Yum yum! the taffy is cooling and solidifying to be placed on a stick)
The fisherman now has friends and family who help cook and bottle the syrup and people stop by to gather, connect and chat. It has become a real gathering point in a community during a time where the lobster fishermen have had to fight to get a fair price for their product and jobs are disappearing.
(The eagle is half way done and children take a closer look while the carver (orange hat on the right) takes a break)
The Sugar Shack is a beautiful example of why rural living can be so much more wondrous and meaningful than urban living. As our population moves toward the city, I feel we often lose this sense of connection and community and as a result rely on ourselves. We need to find a way to stop scoffing rural living and see the lessons to be learned.