Behind the cover of a Laura Ingalls classic is a seven-year-old boy who is absolutely fascinated with her every word. That seven-year-old boy used to be me, and I’m proud to say is now Charlie.
Like my son at his age, I spontaneously connected to the 19th century homesteading hero. She was like a long lost friend. Every Laura Ingalls chapter cheered on my childhood curiosity about pioneer life. Simple, honest stories that capture special moments when family and friends help grow gardens, store preserves, hunt deer, harvest fuel wood and make maple syrup. For our little boys, these outdoor heritage connections are innate, especially against the backdrop of a maple bush and a sugar shack.
Maples on Pye Acres go untapped. When the sap drips, we leave Pye Acres to head a mile or so down the road to Avalon Acres. We prefer syrup production in the company of our friends and neighbors, Tom and Melanie, and their two young homesteaders, Noah and Gabe.Many years ago, Tom broke trail to the Avalon Acres sugar bush, gradually adding to his investment in buckets and taps, a wood-fed boiler and a cozy little shack. Like all homesteading skills, maple syrup production is a labour of love.
When the warmth of the March break sun breaks the cold grip of winter, the snowy woods provide refreshing comfort. Family and friends arrive, and so does a team of horses. Silver pails on Maples, and the sweetly scented smoke-filled air signals their attention. Add potluck meals and music and the days that Laura Ingalls called the “Sugar Snow” stands the test of time.
Tiny winter boots trek up hardwood hills. The boys are going as fast as they can to lift the lids on nature’s candy. They’re having too much fun to ever consider this hard work. For the boys of Pye and Avalon Acres, homesteader rituals are just a way of life. And, like a recently read chapter from Little House in the Big Woods, another heart-warming pioneer adventure lives on.