For the last three years, the first Saturday in April has meant a trip out to Conboys’ Maple Syrup operation to see how it’s done. And last weekend, a steady stream of visitors did just that.
This year’s strange freeze-thaw cycle has played havoc with production schedules but in the end, things should be like most years.
“It should be an average production this year but it’s taking a long time,” said Ryan Conboy. “It was a warm February, a cold March and it’s starting out as a cold April.
“The sugar content is a bit lower but the quality is on a par with most years.”
For the Conboys, an average year means about 6,000 litres. Most people hope to do about a litre per tap and the average in Ontario is about 1.1 litres per tap. Because of their advanced operation and techniques, the Conboys usually get around two litres per tap.
“We’re probably around 5,000 litres right now and I think it’s an average year,” said Conboy. “But we could still have two more weeks.
“It all depends on the weather.”
But it’s unlikely the visitors on this Maple Syrup Weekend care about any of that. The Conboys have been averaging more than 500 visitors on these weekends and most are there for the experience and to have a day out after a long winter.
“There’s lots of room for the kids to run around and this year we two trails.”
Once again, the Frontenac Blades tomahawk and knife-throwers were there to let people try their hand a the historical pass time as well as Cota’s Mobile Catering.
Looking around at everybody taking things in, the self-confessed “oldest one of the bunch,” Ron Conboy reminisced about how things used to be. Conboy grew up with the maple syrup business but left home at 17 to become a teacher and eventually a principal.
“I guess the biggest difference now is the plastic piping,” he said. “It used to be that if you got a wet, messy snowstorm, you had to go around and empty buckets.
“And there was a tank on the back of a sleigh that horses pulled along the trails.
“But the actual process is not all that different.”