Is “sugar shack” synonymous with “long country drive” for you?
Sampling Eastern Canada’s timeless spring ritual can indeed mean a scenic drive along rambling rural roads…but it doesn’t have to. Ottawa is home to two urban sugar shacks—one just a stone’s throw from Barrhaven, the other in the heart of Vanier.
The Log Farm, 670 Cedarview Road
Let’s start with the Log Farm on Cedarview Road, between Bayshore and Barrhaven. I was out there a few weeks ago for its official 2017 designation as the Pioneer Pavilion, one of a network of Confederation Pavilions that the National Capital Commission (NCC) has set up this year to highlight interesting architectural spots around the region.
The house and some of the outbuildings date back to the 1850s, when Abraham and Matilda Bradley cleared the land. They would eventually raise nine children on this site, while also growing crops and managing livestock. The farm switched owners several times before the NCC bought it in 1966 as part of the Greenbelt. The NCC restored a number of the buildings and brought in a few others from the same era.
Various groups have operated programs at the farm over the years. Last year, Ryan Orr and his family secured a long-term lease to move onto the property and once again run it as a working family farm. Visitors can now see farm animals, tour some of the restored buildings, learn about farming from the Orrs, and shop for maple products and locally made crafts in the welcome centre.
In March and April (check the Log Farm website for the latest, weather-dependent information), you can take a tractor-drawn wagon ride into the sugar bush, help collect sap and see the maple syrup-making process. There’s also an all-day pancake-and-sausage breakfast.
Ryan Orr has ideas for lots of other activities to attract nearby residents to the farm throughout the year. “There are so many options. We’re so close to Barrhaven,” he says. First up will be a farmer’s market on Saturdays, starting May 13.
Vanier Museopark, Richelieu Park, 320 Père-Blancs Avenue
On the opposite side of the city, the sugar shack at the Vanier Museopark originally belonged to the White Fathers, a Catholic religious order. After the priests left the property in the 1970s, community groups picked up the baton (or, should I say, the sap bucket?). The current sugar bush operation dates to 1998. These days, the sugar shack produces up to 800 litres of the sweet stuff a year.
Throughout the sugar season (March and April), the sugar shack is open for visits and meals on weekends from 9am to 2pm. It’s not a big place, so reservations are strongly recommended. This weekend, however, it’s first come, first served, for breakfast on Saturday and brunch on Sunday, during the annual Sugar Festival (April 1 and 2). Last year, some 10,000 people showed up to enjoy live music, a bouncy castle, sled dogs, lumberjacks and more.
You can still visit a rural sugar shack
Once you get a taste for the sweet stuff, you might decide to take that country drive after all. This is a good weekend for it, as Maple Weekend events are taking place at farms across Ontario.
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