Archive | April, 2012

Are Canadian winters history?

4 Apr

The History Club from Trent University (of which my husband is an executive) went to the Ganaska Maple Syrup farm. We loaded the kids onto a big yellow bus, and prepared for a blast from the past–every kid in Ontario goes on a school trip to learn about maple syrup, and I was no exception. I was excited to relive that part of my childhood and give the same experience to my kids. They wouldn’t remember it in the future, but they’d enjoy it in the moment, and anyway, they had years of maple syrup farm excursions ahead of them. Right?

My daughter Miri and her dad.

young participants getting a chance to drill for sap.

The day did not disappoint. Trampling through the woods, drinking sap from dixie cups, and sitting around a fire listening to a story by a costumed “pioneer” provided a uniquely Canadian experience.

Moses hiding from the "Pioneer" during the presentation.

The Pioneer.

We saw where the syrup was made, ate delicious pancakes smothered in Maple flavoured sweetness, and danced to a folk guitar band.

My little guy, stuffing his face.

During the lecture, we were made aware of an alarming fact: the maple syrup yield for this year was terrible. And the reason was that it got so warm, so fast before it was even spring, that the trees were not able to produce as much sap as they normally do. The implications of this are pretty clear.

Syrup Farmer telling us about this year's low yield.

First, there is the obvious economic distress that this places on Maple syrup farmers. This is their livelihood. How will they support their families this year, and in future years if this trend continues?

Then there’s the way that their economic distress becomes everyone’s economic distress. Ganaska Forest Centre does not simply provide maple syrup–they also host camps, survival classes, and a variety of other outdoor education experiences. What happens when their reduced income from the Maple Syrup harvest causes them to raise prices of not only their limited supplies of syrup, but the other programs they provide?

Sap collection bucket.

And of course, as a mom, I can’t help but wonder if my grandkids will grow up in a world without maple syrup–a delicacy that is part of our national identity. Something Aunt Jemima can’t even get close to replicating. This thought is unsettling, and it’s not just about of the syrup. It’s the idea of losing the definition of a Canadian Winter that is upsetting. For the past three winters of my son’s young life, we have had next to no snow. It can be counted on one hand the number of times he has used the little sled he received for his first Christmas, under the misguided notion that his childhood would be filled with the kind of winters Canadian children enjoyed in the past.

Today’s children should be able to snowshoe through Ontario’s conservation areas. They should have the quintessential childhood experience of ice skating outdoors. They should know snowball fights, skiing, and the joy of coming inside on a freezing cold day to find a pot of homemade hot chocolate sitting on the stove.

If Canadian children grow up without winter, they will miss out on an important part of our national identity.

Moses and I.