By Connor Lynch
MCDONALDS CORNERS — Maple syrup season came in like a lion and well ahead of schedule.
Wheeler’s Pancake House and Sugar Camp at McDonalds Corners in Lanark County had its first run on Feb. 23. “I thought it was going to be a teaser, but it ran pretty hard,” said Vernon Wheeler. The first sap of the season often has too low sugar content to justify boiling. Since then, the syrup’s been running off and on, “but when it comes on, it comes on hard.” The wacky weather that Eastern Ontario has seen has helped, with the warm spell in mid-February getting the sap running, and the cold spells since holding the season off and sweetening up the trees.
Modern technology has helped as well, said Wheeler. The vacuum system keeps the sockets in the trees from drying out, he said. And the tubing system means that not a drop of syrup is lost, “so if every tap runs a cup of sap, it all comes together and you get a good boil.”
Last year’s drought might’ve hurt crops but it probably helped the maple trees, he added. A bit of stress on them and they start making more food for themselves; the sugar that ends up in maple syrup.
By March 21, the Wheelers had already gotten about half of what a season would usually give.
Gibbons Maple Sugar House, northwest of Brockville, got started the same day. Bill Gibbons told Farmers Forum on March 21 that “even if the maple shack burnt down today, we’d have enough for a not bad year.” By then, they’d already boiled around 2,500 litres of syrup. In an average year, they get about 3,000 litres.