© Jocelyn Turner - Truro Daily News
Truro resident Brad Alexander watches as his two-and-a-half-year-old son Gavin pulls out a bottle of finished maple syrup while they were out checking their sap collection along Queen Street. The father of three is using maple-syrup collecting as one of his projects to get his children ready for home school.
TRURO - White buckets hanging from trees on Queen Street in downtown Truro not only signals the start of maple season, but has also provided a Truro man with a great teaching tool.
Brad Alexander, 29, is using the collection of sap for maple syrup as a learning device to prepare his children for home school.
"When you're going to home school them, you might as well start right away," said Alexander, a fulltime student, who moved to Truro from Chilliwack, B.C., a year-and-a-half ago.
Although his children are only four, two and nine months old, Alexander and his wife Jacqui have already started fun projects to get them interested in learning before home schooling begins.
Alexander's interest in tapping trees originated after he discovered a spile, or spout, in a treasure box while geo-caching. However, the project hit a snag early, as he had no maple trees on his property to tap.
"One of our neighbours has one, so I decided to go and ask if I could put the spile in the tree and try it out," he said. "It was just so easy to do. I looked it up online and learned about it and taught the kids. I thought why not ask all of my neighbours?"
Now, every morning, the Alexanders check the sap collection from 10 different trees, all belonging to neighbours.
Alexander's daughter, four-year-old Evelyn, enjoys collecting sap with her father and even had a chance to enjoy some of the homemade syrup last week with breakfast.
‘It's great," she said. "I like collecting the sap and carrying the tools. It tastes good. Learning with mom and dad is fun."
Evelyn may only be young, but she's already able to explain most of the tree-tapping process without much help from her parents.
"Any place where there is lots of sun is where you put the bucket," she said. "There has to be a big root, an elephant foot."
"You look for that and you follow it up," said Alexander. "With a bigger root, there's more sap and sugar."
Even some of the neighbours are getting in on the learning experience. Alexander said one neighbour in particular was interested in watching as he and his children were collecting sap.
The family collected about 20 gallons of sap, which they tried to turn into maple syrup. They managed to boil it and even share the final products with the owners of the trees they tapped. There were a few mishaps, however.
"It's a whole new experience for us," Alexander said. "Generally, you're supposed to boil it outside but we didn't have a fire pit and we're renting, so we couldn't build one. I thought 20 gallons of syrup wasn't too much to boil down inside."
Because of the huge amounts of steam, Jacqui said their walls were dripping with water.
"It still worked," said the 26-year-old stay-at-home mother. "We got syrup."
"But we had to open the windows and leave the fan on all day, and wear our coats in the house," added Alexander. "But it worked."
Since the first attempt at making their own syrup, the family has since borrowed a propane burner to boil the next batch outside.
With the first batch completed and family and friends reaping in the tasty benefits, Alexander said he has no interest in selling the syrup but will continue teaching his children with similar fun projects.
"We're just going to eat it."
With 10 trees already tapped, Alexander hopes to expand to 20 trees in time for next year's maple syrup collecting season.
For a video, visit trurodaily.com
- Equipment needed to tap a maple tree: Buckets, hooks, a spile, lids and something similar to a coffee filter.
- Warmer weather increases the flow of sap
- The bigger the root of the tree, the more sap there is
- Always tap the part of the tree that is facing the sun for better sap flow