It all began in 1970 when Eric Smith, Ryan’s dad, bought a 203-acre property from Herb Ayer. It was an original grant deed from approximately 1850. Eric believes it was a piece of the original woodlot from the family farm, which had run all the way from Edgetts Landing to the Hopewell Rocks. The property had an existing sugar camp which ran for several years starting in 1950. Its remnants can still be seen about 100 feet past our tank shed. Back then, they used sleds pulled by horses for sap collection on well-beaten trails and hand-made bridges which crossed the numerous brooks on the rocky terrain.
Eric and George started a new camp — a small metal garden shed they were given to match the new siding George had put on his house. They made their own evaporator out of a metal barrel cut in half, and had about 200 taps, mostly with lines, but still a few buckets. Eric’s sisters, Nancy and Audrey, recall George spending nights on end in the little camp while the sap flowed and needed to be boiled. Each season, they made around 20 gallons of syrup which was dispersed among friends and family. They did this every year until George’s death in 1995. In 1996, the equipment was stolen and the roof caved in from snow overload that winter.
For a few years, Eric didn’t stop dreaming of reviving the sugar bush. Slowly he wrangled his son into seeing the same vision. In 2000, they poured the foundation for the new camp and the metal shell for the 1600-ft² building went up. As the years rolled on, they collected equipment from maple operations that were closing. Finally, in 2015, the sap ran through lines on the hill again.
The tradition of the maple harvest continues. Ryan and I are now the third operation to run this sugar bush. We have 2,000 taps, 10% of these on birch trees. Many things have changed over the years, but we try to stay traditionally and environmentally conscious. We boil on a 15-foot-long second-hand wood-fired evaporator from Elgin, which holds approximately 100 gallons and burns about 1 cord of wood every 1½ hours. We use wood from our own property, which Ryan and his uncle Eldon cut in the summer. We have a tank shed that can hold around 5,000 gallons of sap; the only piece of modern machinery is our vacuum pump. Our camp runs off solar power, as does the well, which gives us a comfortable place to stay during the sometimes long maple season.
We decided on the name ‘Black Sheep Maples’ for a few reasons, but the main one being we only want to make dark syrup. We use Boston Round medicine bottles to remind people that food is medicine, and of the bountiful food supply surrounding us in nature. We love the deep flavour of our syrup; our customers tell us it reminds them of the ‘good ole days.’ It is about traditions and we need to keep them alive.
Ryan Smith & Angela MacDougall-Smith run Black Sheep Maples under the umbrella of their farm, Fundy Farms: local harvest. In their market garden in Edgetts Landing, they grow dry beans, herbs, fruit and more. This is their 3rd season running the sugar bush. Their Dark Maple Syrup and Birch- Maple Syrup can be purchased at Corn Crib Moncton, Kredls Corner Market, the Hillsborough Farmers’ Market and at their roadside stand during the summer months. Visit them online at www.facebook.com/FundyFarmslocalharvest/ or contact Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org or 506-851-9911.
Angela MacDougall-Smith & Ryan Smith run “Black Sheep Maples” under the umbrella of “Fundy Farms: local harvest” in Edgetts Landing.