johnwood1946

New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Why Not to Marry a Nova Scotia Woman, and How to Make Maple Sugar

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From the blog at http://JohnWood1946.wordpress.com

Maple Sugar Bushes

Maple Sugar Bushes, ca. 1922

From the McCord Museum

This story is from an anonymous book entitled Letters from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Illustrative of Their Moral, Religious, and Physical Circumstances During the Years 1826, 1827, and 1828, Edinburgh, 1829. The deliberately pretentious title, and the author’s insistence that any suggestion that “the characters and conversations … are imaginary, is altogether superfluous” only confirm that they are entirely imaginary. His stories are not even letters, and are only written in that form.

This story honestly reflects how some people would have been living in those days and is, in addition, entertaining.

Why Not to Marry a Nova Scotia Woman, and How to Make Maple Sugar

Jan. 16, 1826

My Dear Sir,

I have been in the forest. Last New Year’s Day I took a solitary travel into the woods that I might make observations on the tenants of the desert. About one o’clock, p.m. I came to a hut, which pleased me with its aspect of neatness and comfort. The door was shut, but, on opening it, a splendid dinner presented itself to my eyes, together with six or eight persons standing around it. A man clothed in decent home-spun attire was asking a blessing upon the feast, and, but for his prayer for the stranger within his gates, I should have concluded myself wholly unnoticed.

I attempted to stammer out an apology for my intrusion, but was interrupted by the declaration of the farmer that he was exceedingly glad to see me, and that he would be happy if I would take a chair, and partake of his New Year’s Day dinner. Though I was cold and hungry, and, therefore, sufficiently disposed to comply with his request, yet I was desirous that the mistress of the mansion should second the motion of her husband, and, therefore, I began to bow myself out of the door. The lady, however, was polite enough to ask me to stay, and, with many thanks, I set myself down at the repast on the right of my hostess, “cheek by jowl” with a capital Nova Scotian fire.

In a few minutes I discovered that all the guests were of one family, except myself. After dinner we had plenty of rum and brandy, together with apples and raisins, by way of dessert. We talked of various matters. Ireland was mentioned. “You have been in Ireland,” said the farmer, addressing himself to me; I replied in the affirmative. “Well,” said he, wiping away a tear which strayed over his manly and weather-beaten cheek, “Ireland, after all, is a beautiful country, and I could wish to see its green hills again before I die, though all my relations are in their graves except my cousins at-—.” Then he told me the history of his life from the time of his departure from his native land. “I left Ireland,” said he, “in the spring of 18—, and, in four weeks landed at St. John’s, New Brunswick. I had paid my passage before my embarkation, and had still fifteen shillings in my pocket, when I set my feet upon the shores of North America. I could not afford to idle away my time in lodgings, and, therefore, I determined to go into the country, and look for work. Where to journey I knew not. A vessel lying at one of the wharves for Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, attracted my observation. I made inquiries about the probability of getting work in that direction, and though the answers I obtained were sufficiently vague, yet as I had no better prospect elsewhere, I took my passage, and reduced my whole fortune to three shillings and sixpence. On board were two or three Nova Scotian farmers, who had been over at St. John’s to sell their produce. They saw that I was a stranger from the Emerald Isle, and discovered that I was in quest of employment.”

“Most providentially one of these gentlemen had a friend, who was in want of a farm servant, and to him he mentioned the subject. I was employed, and lived happily with my master, for the Americans are kind and indulgent to their servants. I could dig, but with the axe I was a child. My master commended my industry and sobriety, for I was always sober and industrious, laughed at my awkwardness with the axe and told me that I was a likely fellow, and would improve. I did improve. Sir, as my farm testifies, for I cut down all the trees which have been removed from it.”

“But though I was well clothed and well fed, I was not happy, for I had a wife and child in Ireland, and I wished to make them sharers of my prosperity. The only method to effect this object, for I was ignorant of all trades was to get a grant of forest land, build a hut, and begin the operations of a settler. I told my master my wishes. He is dead, Sir. He was a kind man. Fill your glass and we shall drink to his memory, if you have no objections. My master told me that he approved of my plan, and that he would assist me. He applied for me to the local government, and I got a grant of a hundred acres of land.”

“On the first tidings of my success, I bargained with the master of a vessel at St John’s to bring out my wife and child. They landed in the fall, and as I could not build my log hut till the spring, my master got me a small house for them. My wife died shortly after her arrival, and left me with this boy to fight my way through the difficulties which beset me.” He pointed to a fine robust young man of seventeen or eighteen years of age.

“I could not afford to hire a person to nurse him, and, therefore, myself was obliged to undertake the business. I dressed and undressed him, put him to bed, washed our clothes, and cooked our victuals. I had to chop on my farm, and many a time, with him upon my back, have I walked knee-deep in snow for five or six long miles to my day’s work. I wrapped him up, and laid him beneath the shelter of the trees, and many many nights have both of us slept there. Do you see that tree at the comer of the garden? That was the spot; that tree shall stand in its integrity, while I have life to protect it. I sit for two or three hours beneath it all the fine summer Sabbath afternoons.”

“I have succeeded, Sir. God has been kind to me.”

“Then,” said I, “your present wife is a native of Nova Scotia.”’ “Oh no, Sir,”’ he replied, “She is from Ireland. I met with her first at Annapolis Royal. She was on a visit to her aunt. I asked her, and she agreed to marry me. I could not afford to have a Nova Scotian wife. They cannot work out of doors, and then they dress so extravagantly, and all the winter must be at parties two or three times a week. Now Mary helps me to mow, and dig, &c. My neighbour, John, poor man, who is at present in prison for debt, might have been richer than I am, for he is a sober, industrious man, if he had not been unfortunate in his marriage.”

Mrs. —- entered the apartment, and I took up another subject of talk. “Two or three of my acquaintances,” said I, “have gone out to-day in quest of the mouse-deer. They were desirous I should accompany them, but I think I have more enjoyment where I am.” He bowed, and told me that, a few years ago, he had gone into the woods on one of these mouse-deer expeditions, but was so heartily sick of it, that he had vowed not to repeat it. “There was a party of six of us,” said he. “We equipped ourselves with ammunition, provision, &c. for two or three days. All of us wore snow shoes to prevent us from sinking amongst the snow, and, as I was wholly unaccustomed to them, they fatigued me exceedingly. Night overtook us, and glad I was to have that apology for finishing the day’s toils. We lighted a fire of faggots, ate our cold beef and bread, drank bur brandy, and then laid ourselves down to sleep with the heaven for our canopy, and the snow for our bed.”

“I should think,” said I, “that this sport requires a strong constitution.” “Oh yes!” he replied, “Most of those who have been engaged in it frequently betray the marks of premature decay.”

At this moment two or three large circular pieces of brown sugar, lying on a plate upon the table before us, attracted my observation. “Where, my friend, did you buy this sugar,” said I “Oh! That is our own manufacture from the raw produce of our own forests,” he replied. “Indeed, do you make sugar from the beet?” “Oh no! We eat all our beets in their raw state. That sugar is from the maple tree. I make a sufficient quantity of it for the supply of my family throughout the year. I keep a pound or two of West Indies sugar always in my house for the use of any friend like yourself from the old country, who may honour me with a visit, (I bowed most profoundly); but myself, my wife and family prefer the maple sugar. The end of March or beginning of April is the time for making it. Then the juices are ascending from the roots. We make an aperture towards the bottom of the tree, and put a thin board of cedar into the hole to convey the sap into a trough ready to receive it. After its extraction we boil it on a fire, and, as it loses by evaporation, we fill it up from another vessel on another fire, till this last boiler is empty. Then we boil the whole together for a few hours, till the sap mounts up to the top. Then we put a small quantity of fat pork into the boiler. We repeat this operation three times, and successively the pork rises up to the top. Then we strain the syrup into a pail, and allow it to remain in this state till the next day, when we put it on a slow fire, and boil it for an hour, and then pour it into earthen vessel to cool.” “Can you take sap from these trees yearly?” “Oh no. We cork up the holes, which we make for the extraction of the juices, the moment we have got what we deem a sufficient quantity, to prevent the trees from exhausting themselves. We have such an abundant supply of maples in our forests that we do not frequently repeat the operation of tapping, but I should think that it might be performed every seventh or eighth year without any material injury to the tree.”

I tasted the sugar, and found it to have a strong taste. Nobody can tell what a right method of preparation might have upon it. I have not the smallest doubt that any sum which might be expended in the necessary experiments, would be amply repaid by the profit of the manufacture.

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Written by johnwood1946

July 6, 2016 at 9:02 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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