Wednesday, 13 December 2017


Maple Syrup as an Added Value Product

In 2007 after a 41year hiatus, Charlie Burke’s Sugar Bush (est. 2010) resumed maple syrup production under the management of new owners Don and Mary Helen Deakin. The Deakins immediately incorporated maple syrup into their breakfast menu. Syrup sales to out-of-country B & B guests soon gained popularity and the Deakins expanded operations by increasing the number of trees tapped.
As their reputation as stewards of the forest environment grew the Deakins began to offer complementary tours to B & B guests. In 2012 An Ontario Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) was completed and filed jointly with the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF). Today this plan continues to inform the ongoing development of tours and workshops for visitors to the Deakins’ maple farm.


Since 2016 maple syrup workshops have attracted a growing number of travellers. During the summer months workshop participants engage in the final stages of syrup production and take home the fruit of their labour as a memento of their time at the Deakins.

In the upcoming 2018 tourist season revenues from this experience are expected to surpass those of the Bed and Breakfast and syrup combined. With maple as the star of the show and with all factors considered – B & B stays, maple product tastings, forest tours and the maple syrup making workshops – every liter of maple syrup can well be said to generate the highest added value of any maple syrup product in the maple syrup world.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

            The Maple Forest Resource at The Deakins

The Deakins 100 acre property was originally granted to a German immigrant named Orville Getz by the Crown which deeded the property to the Getzes in 1878 when all grant conditions were fulfilled.

The ownership changed hands in 1906 when the property was purchased by the Charlie Burke family. The Department of Crown Lands at the time would have catalogued it as a maple/beech/hemlock forest. The first records of maple syrup production date to 1910, but this fact was not verified until the year 2000 when owners Don and Mary Helen Deakin razed the original tumble-down sugar shack and discovered newspapers used as insulation dating back to 1910 and 1914.

By 1914 production was in full swing with three generations of Burkes installing 1900 taps and buckets each season and selling maple syrup as far afield as Arnprior.

Production tailed off after 1940 as a succession of new owners acquired the property. In 1972 one of these owners sold off 1,000 prime maple trees to the lucrative veneer market, an action which resulted in a forest that was understocked and not viable for maple syrup production. Left unmanaged for 30 years the competing tree species gained dominance in the forest and regeneration of sugar maples became virtually non-existent.

In 1998 new owners, Don and Mary Helen Deakin, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources filed a plan to rejuvenate the once highly productive forest. Ambitious measures were adopted. A second major logging project in 2008 greatly reduced the number of competing trees in the forest and provided much needed space and access to sunlight for young maples to prosper. A number of in-forest plantations were developed and six-foot tall maple whips were strategically located throughout the forest to ensure an even distribution of trees. To support the plantations project, a sugar maple nursery was established near the house and populated with genetically compatible saplings transplanted from the Deakins’ forest.  Ongoing planting and routine thinning are ensuring the steady growth of the sugar maple resource.  The Ontario Managed Forest Plan (OMFP) is now in its third l cycle (est. 1999). Plan components consist of systematic review, plan development, implementation and evaluation phases.

Today, visiting foresters consider the Deakins a Class A forest due primarily to its biodiversity, low incidence of disease and capacity for regeneration. Resilient and vigorous growers, the maple trees are living up to their reputation. Nevertheless, this forest’s capacity for sap production will still not approach 1910 levels until 2055.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Ontario Footprints Experiences

Ontario Footprints Experiences

An immediate curiosity captures us when we come across footprints. They suggest that one or more people have taken a walk and experienced their environment and consequently the sight of these imprints propels us to ask questions, “Where do they lead – to discovery or to more mystery?

At Ontario Footprints we seek to satisfy this curiosity in our travellers by leading them to encounters, interactions and moments that forge unforgettable memories. Our commitment begins at The Deakins Bed and Breakfast and our heritage forest and extends beyond our doors. Through our several itineraries we connect our experiential travellers to the special people, places and cultures of our region.

Our explorations are engaging, active, hands-on, unique, authentic, sometimes pleasantly unexpected and always memorable!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Champion Maple Trees

All maple syrup producers have a favourite tree - a champion tree! It is usually a mature healthy tree of substantial diameter (in excess of 50 centimeters) that produces voluminous quantities of sap with a higher concentration of sugar than other maple trees in the forest. My present champion has a 30 degree hook at eye level and breaks off into two equally sized branches reaching to a height of approximately 16 meters. It's a modest champion by all accounts - producing two full two gallon buckets of sap with 2.8% sugar content on a good day. My neighbour's champion tree sits in a preferred location in full sunlight in the corner of a field on the edge of his sugarbush. It's a tree of some renown since one March day in 1973 it produced 12 gallons of sap, a feat not likely to be repeated since farmers these days rarely hang more than two buckets on a tree. When asked about the tree's longevity and prolificness my neighbour replied, "We only ever tapped that tree one day to see what it would do." 
Comfort Tree

These trees pale by comparison with what is reputed to be Canada's oldest sugar maple tree. The Comfort Tree stands on a quarter acre plot near North Pelham Ontario and has been under the protection of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority since 1961. Nicknamed "Old Glory" by its original owners, the 500 year-old tree is 25 meters high and has a circumference of 6 meters. It's a sure bet it hasn't been tapped in years as it was reserved for everlasting protection by the Comfort family in 1946.  Since the volume of sap a tree produces is often directly proportional to the number of leaves it has … can you imagine the volume of sap this tree might have produced in its day?

Do you have a story to tell about your favourite tree or your champion maple tree?

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Language of Travel

Travel, I have discovered, has a language of its own. Over our many years as bed and breakfast hosts we have welcomed visitors from over 50 countries. Most of these have spoken passable to excellent English. Some few have not.

Yet, communication between guests and hosts, though challenging at times, is always established.

One summer, several years ago, we were graced with the presence of three couples from different countries who spoke very little English and none of each other’s languages.

It all started when one of these non English-speaking guests showed some curiosity over a creamer that Mary Helen had displayed in the dining room china cabinet. Mary Helen proceeded to explain, first in words, and – as she became aware that no one was understanding her - then in charade and finally in pantomime -  how she had acquired this curious china piece.

Singles ... Looking for Partners
Now, in a word, the story was that Mary Helen had bought the creamer at an auction for $2, mainly because it was part of a set with a missing sugar bowl. And when I asked her why she wanted half of a set, she retorted” I don’t.!  I’ll find the matching piece at another auction sale.” Which she did … in a space of about two weeks!

Before long the six guests, perhaps out of sympathy for their hostess (who, though still undaunted, was becoming frustrated with her inability to make herself understood), began also communicating in gestures and the most bizarre facial expressions - all amid gales of uncontrollable laughter.  After twenty minutes the story was told. To this day, however, neither Mary Helen nor I is sure just how much of it was understood.

My favourite vignette on this topic involves a German couple who stayed with us for two nights. The second day, upon their return from Algonquin Park , the husband, with eyes as big as saucers and obviously quite delighted with himself, kept repeating  . “Wolf!  Camera! … Wolf! Camera!”. We surmised from this that the couple had encountered a wolf while on a trail hike and managed to capture it on camera. Naturally, I was pleased for him and impressed that he had successfully expressed himself with knowledge of only two English words.

It was only some years later when I was recounting the incident to two German guests (whose English was excellent) that I learned that the words ‘wolf’ and ‘camera’ are identical in both English and German.

Yes. Lasting memories. We have many of them.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Make Your Own Maple Syrup This Summer!

Make Your Own Maple Syrup This Summer!
The Deakins are developing a new, exciting product. Beginning this August, bed and breakfast guests at The Deakins on Mountainview can participate in a half-day workshop where they will immerse themselves in the life of a Canadian maple syrup farmer by participating in hands-on activities that end with the production of their own maple syrup. We are excited that this new, authentic maple experience will leave our guests with a lasting memory of their time in Canada and at The Deakins.
Your syrup is ready!
In past years summer guests touring our maple forest and facilities have regretted not having the opportunity to make syrup during the maple season. This lament is of no surprise to us since our own research and experience confirm that experiential travellers seek to immerse themselves in engaging ways in the culture, people and settings of the places they visit. To our knowledge no one makes maple syrup out-of-season; so, we are looking forward to providing our visitors with this unique experience.

Workshop participants will learn:
Hands On Techniques
   Selection of healthy maple syrup trees
   Tree tapping practices
    Sap evaporation and syrup finishing
    Syrup filtration
    Syrup grading
    Packaging their own syrup

Values (as reflected in our Environmental Farm Plan and Forest Management Plan)
   Sustainability of the maple resource
   Responsible pest management
   Genetic integrity
   Forest growth management

Workshop Fees, Dates, Details
   $ 35 per person for Bed and Breakfast guests based on minimum of four participants
   $40 per person for non-guests based on minimum of four participants
   Every Tuesday in August by advanced booking via website CONTACT US tab or at
   All materials supplied by workshop leader
   Start time 9 a. m.
   3 hours duration
   A typical boil will produce 250ml of quality syrup for each participant
Note:  This workhop is not suitable for children under 12 years of age.
This workshop is suitable
   for the curious wanting to participate in a unique and satisfying activity and
   for those who may be interested in starting their own small scale maple syrup