The Story of Temple's Syrup
In the spring of 1973, at the age of twenty three, I started my maple business with 100 borrowed buckets, a borrowed flat pan evaporator and no clue of how to make maple syrup.
I was living on the family hobby farm in Lanark County after dropping out of University in Toronto and spent the winter trying, unsuccessfully, to figure out what to do with my life. As March approached, I recalled a happy childhood memory of a great uncle making maple syrup at my mother's family farm near Balderson and decided to try to make syrup myself. With the help of friends, family and neighbours, I built a primitive little outdoor operation.
The next month was spent working in the sugar bush through all the changes of spring weather. Frosty nights followed by warm sunny days would produce torrents of sap. Rainy days produced very little, while a snowfall would bring on a run of new sap. It seemed that even subtle changes in wind, temperature or air pressure had huge effects on sap flow. On days the sap ran hard, I would boil day and night. Over time, the temperatures warmed and there were no more nightly frosts. The frogs began singing in the swamps and that was the end of my first year of sugar making.
Every aspect of the business was so enjoyable that I became determined to make a living at it. Fortunately for me, Lanark County has a grand tradition of making maple syrup and a number of older sugar makers were happy to pass on their experience, for which I am immeasurably grateful. The early 1970's was a good time to get involved because there was a lot of excitement about new technologies such as plastic tubing, vacuum systems and reverse osmosis machines. In the fall of 1973, I built my first sugar camp with old recycled lumber and installed a used wood fired 4 ft by 12 ft 'Lightning' evaporator. My new tubing system however was state of the art.
Over the years, I added more taps by renting local sugar bushes and developed a year round wholesale business supplying independent stores in the Toronto area. In 1984 I bought a farm near McDonalds Corners with a beautiful sugar bush that overlooked the Mississippi Valley. I built a new sugar camp and moved my operation there. Two years later I married my wonderful wife Susan. Her son Andrew has since joined the business.
Everything was just humming along fine until the ice storm hit in 1998. For a while we thought that we might be out of business. Fortunately that wasn't the case; however, it made us realize how vulnerable we were and we thought that some more diversity might be in order.
So, in 2001, we bought the McEwen sugar bush near Ferguson's Falls with the intention of starting a restaurant there ... and that's a story that's just beginning!
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