Sugar-free Shannon

I don’t know what’s happening with me and heart day.

I don’t know what’s happening with me and heart day. 

Last year I made a Valentine’s resolution to try and raise all the ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner. 

This year I looked at all those boxes of heart-shaped chocolates, faced up to my life-long sugar addiction and something inside me said “I quit.”

It would seem that Feb. 14 is my new New Year.  And I have to admit the idea of quitting sugar on the sweetest day of the year appealed to my sense of irony.  

At least it’s more singular than last year’s resolution. 

All I have to do for the next year is not eat anything with sugar in it (gulp!). 

The last resolution of trying to grow and harvest so many different ingredients in one summer was a recipe for at least a couple failures. 

Of course, I prefer to think of them as successful lessons. I learned a lot of successful lessons. 

Lesson one: if you catch and release house flies chances are you don’t have what it takes to kill a turkey.

Lesson two: curiosity will kill the pumpkin. Admire your growing squash from a distance as premature handling can cause it to snap right off the vine.    

Lesson three: pumpkins grow very poorly once they have snapped off the vine.

Lesson four: if you expect a harvest of golden wheat it needs to be planted before June.  

Lesson five: green wheat makes very poor pie crust.

Lesson six: just because you’re blessed with 60 acres of wild cranberries doesn’t mean you will actually harvest any cranberries — especially if it doesn’t rain.

And that’s only half a dozen of the successful lessons I learned — trust me, there were more. 

A lot more.

While I never managed to raise every ingredient for last Thanksgiving, I learned enough to increase my chances for this year. 

And I worked up the courage to fulfill a lifelong dream of keeping bees. 

Over the summer I fell hopelessly in love with my golden little buzzers. And yes, I will still be eating raw honey from the hives.

My sugar shun doesn’t include honey or, for that matter, maple syrup. 

Just the granulated processed stuff. 

I would love to have my own maple trees and learn the art of tapping. 

The idea of getting out there in the first blush of spring to collect sap is so appealing.

It happens during that space of time when you’re deathly sick of winter, spring is imminent and yet it is still way too early to work in the garden.

It’s really gardening when you think about it. You’re harvesting food from plants. 

And just think how gorgeous a row of sugar maples would look lining the driveway! When I read that sugar maples are hardy in zone 3 it sent me over the moon with glee. 

I always assumed they weren’t hardy to our area and that’s why no one grew them. 

With visions of McKinnon Maple Syrup labels stuck in my head I kept reading and that’s when I discovered it takes a minimum of 20 years — and more likely 30 — for a sugar maple to get big enough to tap. 

Darcy and I would be staring into the headlights of our seventies before we could even think of breaking out the buckets.

Oh, well. 

It may be foolish but I think I’m going to get a few saplings anyway.

Check back with me in a few decades and I’ll let you know if we broke out the buckets before we kicked them. 

Though if we’ve kicked them I guess someone else will have to let you know. 

I know a few people who are blessed with groves of mature birches and have been collecting sap from them. 

The birch syrup tastes nothing like maple but it is still delicious in its own right. 

Maybe I’ll plant some birch trees too. At least they grow faster than maples and I know with certainty they’re hardy to our area.

And maybe I’m even more foolish to think honey or maple syrup is healthier for me than sugar made from beets or sugar cane or the refined syrup from corn. 

Even as I type there is a niggling suspicion it might all be bad.

Wouldn’t that be a kicker if I perfected the art of bee keeping and nurtured a grove of maples for 30 years only to find out the product is bad for me! 

Ah well, the bees I would still keep just for the joy of watching them — not to mention their pollination benefits. 

And a grove of maple or birch trees would still be beautiful, even if their syrup potential goes untapped.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace Country. 

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