Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Acadian Forest Maple Syrup

Yes, please!

In my last post I wrote about it being time for tapping sugar maples in the forest. The season traditionally runs through March and April, making it the earliest agricultural product in North America.

Here we are a little later, and the maple syrup is ready. 

The sugar maple (Acer saccharum) tree is a beautiful hardwood species found in the Acadian Forest. Its sap contains about 2-3 % sugar, which is boiled down until it is syrup containing at least 66% sugar. It takes 40 parts of sap to make 1 part syrup.

When these trees are healthy, they can live up to an amazingly long-lived 400 years old. It is a shade-tolerant species found in mature forests. If a forest is cut over, more opportunistic species replace it. This has caused an overall decline in the number of mature trees.

Climate change is affecting the growth of the sugar maple since they require cooler temperatures. Over time, their range will be pushed farther north.

100% natural sweetener. I wanted to buy it all. 

Unlike more invasive forest activities, the trees in a tapping operation are in no way damaged or harmed. Compare that to the clear cuts that blight Nova Scotia forests, and we can see how working with nature is so much better than working against it.

"Being a wildcrafted product, pure maple syrup acquires tastes, flavours and aromas from the surrounding natural environment.  
During the spring melt, water runs over different rock and vegetation on its way to the tree roots and it acquires a host of varying tastes and flavours distinct to each individual sugaring operation."

Yesterday I road my bike down the road to a neighbourhood farm to pick up a jar of local maple yumminess. The price is comparable to the grocery store, and I get a canning jar that is reusable for so many things. No plastic here.

Even better, my money helps support a local family rather than going to a large corporate interest in some other province.

Take a jar, leave your money in the container - the honour system. Would it work in the city?
The label reads, "Made by hand by real flannel-shirt-wearing farmers".

The syrup I bought is different from the last store bought syrup I got. It is a beautiful golden colour, meaning it will have a lighter taste than the more robust mapley flavour of darker varieties.

I am looking forward to trying my first jar of local syrup made from the forest that surrounds my home.


The sugar maple is one of the most colourful trees
in the forest when fall comes.

"We must keep these waters for wild rice, these trees for maple syrup, our lakes for fish, and our land and aquifers for all of our relatives - whether they have fins, roots, wings, or paws."
- Winona LaDuke

Friday, 15 March 2019

Time For Maple Tapping In The Acadian Forest

After a cold winter, the weather in Nova Scotia's Acadian Forest is becoming perfect for tapping sugar maples. It won't be long before maple syrup is ready for selling at stands along the road to my home.

Sugar maple tree tapping occurs when days are just above freezing, and nights are just below freezing. Too cold and the sap stops, while temperatures too warm cause trees to begin leafing out, which affects the composition and taste of the sap.

Sugar maple sap contains about 2% sugar. Maple syrup, on the other hand, has about 67% sugar content.

Many people in my neighbourhood tap sugar maples and sell syrup, but the most extensive operation I have seen is in the Acacia Brook valley. 

Down there one finds a lovely stand of sugar maples, some of which are very large and old. Trees are not usually tapped until they are 20 30 years old.

Largely gone are the days that tappers hung metal buckets under taps on the trunks of trees. Today more efficient, but less visually pleasing methods are used.

In the bottom of this picture you can see the green and black tubing that transports the sugar maple sap to centralized collection points.

Plastic tubing connects the trees to central collection points. These points are ideally lower down on slopes where the groves of maples grow. They are also close to the sugar shack, where the sap is boiled down to concentrate the sugar content (and taste).

While the province of Quebec is the major maple syrup producer in Canada, and the world, Nova Scotia is the fourth largest, and has between 150 - 200 producers in operations of all sizes.

Get those pancakes and waffles ready. And remember, when you are pouring the syrup, to thank the trees. What a gift!

Saturday, 16 February 2019

No Snow In The Forest

While we have had the occasional snow in the forest this winter, so far, it has been light. I have only been able to get out snowshoeing 2 or 3 times.

Even though it is raining as I write this, February and March are Nova Scotia's snowiest months, so I remain hopeful.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Nova Scotia Forests "Severely Depleted"

"Today, old growth forests (over 150 years old) are a rarity in Nova Scotia. In fact, less than 1% (0.6%) of our forests are over 100 years old. Most are found in small isolated stands that are not big enough for wildlife species requiring large areas of undisturbed forests, such as bears and martens." - source

An Open Letter to Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil from the Healthy Forest Coalition


An Open Letter to Premier Stephen McNeil

Dear Premier McNeil, Nova Scotia’s working forests are severely depleted. Currently a few mills are scrambling to harvest the last remaining stands of quality timber while the rest of our forest enterprises are reduced to cutting young and early successional stands for pulp and biomass. Our working forests are becoming vast tree farms where biodiversity is dying and boreal species replace our Acadian forest.

We could be nurturing a new forest. A forest that is representative of the species dominant here for centuries and best suited to our soils and climate. Over time this Acadian forest could restore bio-diversity to our landscape and revive our forest economy.

Only government can start this process. Only you can provide the leadership we need.

 We ask you to revisit the values the public expressed in the 2008-9 consultation and urge you to:

1. Inspire Nova Scotians with a new vision of the forest. Set goals. Create a regime of forest management that will enhance biodiversity and realize the full potential of our timber and non-timber resources.
2. End the conflict of interest at DNR. Create a new department with pre-eminent responsibility for stewardship of our resources and assign to a separate commission the allocation and marketing of those resources deemed to be available.
3. Recognize that there are strong economic and scientific data that support a major change in policy. Ensure that biological sciences influence stewardship policy and that landscape level factors – not narrow stand-level considerations - drive harvest decisions.
4. End policies that exploit resources. Impose a moratorium on clearcutting and two-stage clearcutting on Crown lands. Stop treating Crown lands as reserves for private mills. End intensive forest management and ban the export of unprocessed wood and wood chips.
5. Introduce policies that reward stewardship and conservation. Encourage ecologically sensitive harvesting of forest resources with programmes that reward silviculture (in its broadest sense) and minimize the use of the larger and heavier harvesters. Foster non-timber forest products. Such changes can reverse the decline of employment in our woods.
6. Strengthen the small private woodland sector. Enhance the role of woodlot owner organizations and recognize their potential for collective bargaining.
7. Introduce a strategy that will accord woodlot owners the economic benefits of carbon off-sets.
8. Recognize that tourism based on our beautiful forested land and seascape brings employment to Nova Scotia’s rural areas.

These steps are feasible. They will not be accomplished easily. The reward will be a forest legacy rich in biodiversity and broad economic benefit.

Yours respectfully,

The Healthy Forest Coalition

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Goodbye Pacific Rainforest, Hello Acadian Forest

Large Douglas fir tree near my previous home on southern Vancouver Island.

In 2014 I moved from the coastal rainforest of southeast Vancouver Island to the Acadian forest of southwest Nova Scotia. It was sad to be leaving the Pacific giants, but exciting to get to experience a totally new forest on the east coast.

For 9 years I enjoyed exploring the wet, mossy forests of the Pacific coast. During that time I created a blog, Vancouver Island Big Trees, and published over three hundred posts sharing my big tree experiences.

Since arriving in the Acadian forest I have been learning about this unique and stunning ecosystem. 

Initially we had to adjust to the size difference between Pacific and Atlantic forests. The forest in Nova Scotia seemed so... small.

After a while my eyes adjusted, and I could see that what my new forest lacked in sheer size, it easily made up for in diversity and beauty.

There was also an age adjustment to be made. The oldest trees on the west coast can be over 1000 years, while an ancient on the east coast might get "only" get to  see 400.

While I look forward to having many more experiences in the Acadian forest, I already have seen enough to know that this is one of the most incredible forests I have ever had the pleasure of exploring. 

What I like, is that this is not like the boreal forest to the west, nor is it like the northeastern coastal forest to the south. It is a small patch of something unique and wonderful.

Acadian Forest Big Trees will share some of the beauty I see, and the things I learn while out and about in the forest around my home. It is my hope that the posts in this blog will demonstrate why the Acadian forest is worth saving and protecting.

Big tree in the Acadian Forest near my new home in southwest Nova Scotia.