By Alanna Jones
After two days of boiling sap straight through the night and trudging through three feet of snow in the woods on the side of a mountain, Danny Lemmon is bushed. He and his partner Kathy Spearing, along with son Daniel, have traveled from Upper Musquodoboit to tap 2000 trees in Bass River, NS.
Five years ago they took over a government lease from Gordon Fisher, who had developed the established stand for 35-40 years. It is 150 acres of which about 60% are Rock (sugar) maple, or around 4500 tappable trees. The lot is a Heritage maple growth forest with most trees between 150-200 years old, and therefore protected from logging.
Lemmon and Spearing have many customers throughout the province and will deliver to your home. They are grateful to Brookfield Bakery for purchasing their syrup every month and are looking forward to the satellite bakery opening in Elmsdale. They also frequent farmer’s markets with their products where they often get asked the question, “Where does it come from?”
Lemmon is surprised by how disconnected people are from nature. Not only do people forget maple syrup comes from maple trees, they are also not aware of the boiling down / evaporating process and think you just turn a tap on the tree and maple syrup comes out. So he laughs and says, “Ahh...you mean the trees?”
Then he explains, as though he’s writing a children’s storybook, how the tree stores starch in winter that it produced through its leaves in summer and fall. When the weather starts to warm up during the day, but is still freezing at night, the sap flows up the tree from the roots to form the new buds. The sap can then be collected through a network of taps and lines and is gravity fed into the thousand-gallon holding tank. (Lemmon still hangs about 40 buckets just for old times sake.)
Lemmon says he likes to remind people that maple syrup was special to the Mi'kmaq, who showed Europeans how the Mi’kmaq produced syrup using stone tools to make cuts in the trunks of maple trees and collecting the resulting sap in birch bark buckets. They dropped hot stones into the sap to get rid of the water, or let it freeze and removed the layer of ice
Lemmon boils his sap down right away in a 6 by 16 feet evaporator that can process 100 gallons an hour when it’s running all night. Running the evaporator is an around-the-clock operation; there are sleeping quarters in the sugar shack, where they also make maple butter and maple sugar on the side.
Thirty-five to forty gallons of sap usually makes 1 gallon of syrup. Rock maple trees are the preferred species for taste and sugar content. Each tree produces about one gallon of sap per day, and you can usually bank on 1 litre of delicious maple syrup per tree each year. Many trees have been tapped for over 100 years with no harm done. The syrup is stored in a cool place in barrels and bottled throughout the year.
More pics and info on Facebook under RD Lemmon Maple or call / text Danny Lemmon at 902-957-5689 or email [email protected]. There’s a Maple Syrup Festival in Dean, April 14 from 10am to 6pm at the Sharon Presbyterian Church.