What is a Sugar Chalet? Well, there is a story behind that.
In the1800’s the Bissell’s made maple syrup in this sugarshack. I found this in a box of old photo’s on a postcard post marked “1911”. If you look close, you can see this postcard was a photo of a photo. You can also see buckets hanging on the trees in the background. You have to love the “Hell on Wheels” garb.
Most maple farms, at the very least, have a sugarshack. In fact, we grew up with a sugarshack in our back yard. Sugarshacks are exactly what they sound like. A shack keeps the rain and weather off of your back while you boil sap. The wind still blows through the cracks in the boards. Rustic but functional. Exactly what you would expect from farmers.
When Dad and I started expanding the maple operation – we tapped more trees and collected more sap than ever. With the additional sap tanks and equipment – we had to invest in a bigger building. We knew growth and expansion would continue so we invested for the future. We needed more space to continue growing…a common theme for Bissell Maple Farm.
We have been blessed with a great contractor. He has tolerated changes half-way through projects. He tolerated a business owner who lacked maturity and understanding of the construction process. I have to say Dan’s patience with me, looking back, was pretty spectacular. So as much as we have increased capacity and capabilities – our contractor Dan Moore – has been there every step of the way.
The changes weren’t easy for Dad, either. We cut down trees, made a driveway, infringed on garden space – when people say growth is hard it isn’t always about financials. Sometimes it is about the constant change. We weren’t just making syrup for our family anymore having fun in the backyard. It shifted from serious hobby to a business. I think sometimes we all miss the sugarshack. However, industry advancement have kept maple syrup a relevant sweetener. Without these industry changes, maple syrup would be $250 per gallon!
Some of the industry advances are truly amazing and we have no idea how we survived without them. Tubing, Reverse Osmosis, the filter press – some cool gadgets have really improved our efficiency. However, there was something special about just a shack with a couple lamps and an evaporator chugging away at night. I miss the simlicity sometimes. I know Dad does.
My Aunt Linda is credited with saying, “this isn’t a sugarhouse, it is a sugar chalet!” The name stuck. From a shack – to a house – to a chalet…. We still make sugar. And the next step?