Weekend Maple Tree Visit at Purple Woods

Our small human recently celebrated a birthday and we booked a cottage near Presquille Provincial Park, and had a lovely little time.

While we were in the area, we also took the opportunity to check out the Purple Woods Maple Festival. We heard about it while taking part in an online “Maple Fun Time” activity courtesy of OPG (aka Ontario Power Generation) and the session was put on by Central Lake Conservation Area.

I love finding these online options for kids and The Sap to Syrup program covered a lot of ground. We learned how maple syrup is made at Purple Lake from the program, and it was cool to see the kid make the connections once we were actually on site too. I didn’t hear many other kids talking about spiles. (when talking about maple syrup collection – spiles are the things you put into the tree, to allow the sap to flow into the collection buckets or tubes.)

The nice thing was, I got a lot out of it too – I’ve been curious about how maple syrup harvesting has changed over the years, and the program took us through multiple technologies – from Indigenous methods with specialized cuts, birch bark collection baskets, woven filters, through settler process with cauldrons and sugar shacks, and now to modern times with the different collection methods including buckets and what Purple Lake uses now – a network of tubes that connect to the spiles harvesting sap from the trees.

We also watched this video from the National Center for Collaboration in Indigenous Education:

I was also happy to see there was a series of five related videos when I searched for Ziinzibaakwadgummig online. In the video above, Barbara Wall, a Potawatomi Knowledge Carrier, walked us through some Anishinaabeg collection techniques and tools, which we watched as a group.

Early settlers learned about Maple syrup from the Anishinaabeg and then used their own materials to harvest maple syrup and modified their production methods based on the tools they had access to. As technology evolved further, people started using different kinds of spiles and techniques. The thing that really stood out for me was how Purple Woods used spiles and a network of tubes to collect the maple syrup (including incorporating a bit of a vacuum into the process.)

We left with a big bottle of maple syrup actually made in the Purple Woods, and had a fun afternoon wandering around the forest with a small crowd of fellow maple syrup enthusiasts.