WALKERTON – Meadow Ridge Maple is almost within shouting distance of Walkerton, but it feels like it’s a world away.
This haven of an old-fashioned maple sugar bush set in the scenic Saugeen River valley offers a bit of everything good – family-friendly special events, beautiful walking trails, information about the production of maple syrup, a few pet chickens wandering around, and of course, an opportunity to taste and purchase the sweet, amber liquid.
Donna and Jim Fischer opened up their farm, maple bush and sugar camp to the public on Sept. 25 and 26, and are opening it again on Oct. 2 and 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
It’s a beautiful opportunity to enjoy the fall colours while learning about the maple syrup production process. There are even some sweet maple treats to enjoy.
Admission is free. People are asked to wear their masks inside the sugar camp and whenever distancing isn’t possible outdoors.
The weekend of Sept. 25 and 26 was mixed – only a few people braved the rain on Saturday, but Sunday was perfect.
Donna explained that because of COVID-19, such things as their traditional pancake breakfast haven’t been possible.
“We’re glad to have people here, enjoying the great outdoors,” she said.
And that included syrup tasting. People learned the difference between the pale, more delicately-flavoured syrup that’s perfect on pancakes and ice cream, and the deeper-coloured, stronger-flavoured syrup that’s ideal for such wonderful dishes as maple baked beans. Donna said she mixes it with regular barbecue sauce to give a flavourful sauce for barbecuing ribs and other meats.
While the late-September, early-October event lacks the wonderful scent of maple in the air that characterizes spring special events, there are benefits to visiting the farm and sugar bush at this time of year. Viewing the autumn colours is one of them.
Donna said they’re coming into their sixth season.
“It started as a hobby,” she said.
Initially, they tapped only about 100 trees, using buckets. As the hobby grew on them and they attended maple producers’ events, they decided to take the advice they’d been given and put up the blue plastic lines that can be seen throughout the bush.
The woodlot is only 10 acres, but there are about 850 trees presently being tapped. Donna explained that the larger the tree, the more taps it can take. The bush is young, meaning only one or two taps per tree. As they grow, more may be added.
She looks forward to getting back to holding more public events and school visits – perhaps this coming spring.
Visitors to Meadow Ridge Maple hope so, too. One visitor on Sunday, Adam Verschuere, there with his wife Tatum and children Reagan and Hennessy, said, “I’m glad they opened it up so people can come and check it out.”
Although the sugar shack and trails are accessible to the public only during special events, people with a taste for maple can buy it on a self-serve basis at the house.
Meadow Ridge Maple is a part of Fischer Lind Farms Ltd.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times