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Meet the maple syrup man

Howdy folks, howdy. How you all doin’ anyhow? The Singing Gardener (hey that’s me) is back in the saddle again putting pen to paper and keyboard to computer. Time to get reconnected wouldn’t you say? Made in Manitoba maple syrup is on my agenda, plus how to keep house and barn flies at bay. I’ll also touch on the goodness of horseradish, but first let me begin with a proverb.

A SWARM IN MAY

… is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly. What does that mean? Here’s one interpretation. A swarm of bees in May is worth a milking cow and a bundle of hay and in June a swarm is still worth a silver spoon. However, by July it’s too late to store up enough honey before flowers begin to fade and so a swarm of bees in the seventh month isn’t worth a fly. It’s also that time of year when flies like to sneak into the house every time somebody opens a door but I’m using the fly swatter a lot less often now. Read on and find out why.

HAVE YOU GOT A FEW CANADIAN PENNIES SAVED?

They’re now out of sight when paying for purchases but not necessarily out of mind. Sure glad I saved a tin can full of those brown coppers as they’re sometimes known. All you need is a medium-size, transparent, zip-lock plastic freezer bag. Half-fill it with water then drop in four to six or even up to 10 pennies and zip it shut. Securely pin, staple or fasten the bag of water containing pennies to a wall or post by a house, the barn door or any problem area.

Flies that come by will stick around for a short time and then take off. How so? Seems flies regard the pennies as large eyes of some predators searching for food or protecting their nearby nest. Flies and wasps interpret the bag of water with pennies as a threat. They simply won’t take the risk of being around such perceived danger. Rather than be devoured they take off. Not a believer? Time and again it has worked successfully for other folks. You may want to try it.

THE BOTTLING IS NOW COMPLETED

It’s been a good season for Mitch and Linda Omichinski. Early-, mid-season and late-gathered sap runs have resulted in light, medium and dark tones of final product with a unique and sweetly distinct flavour profile. This year’s pure and luscious Manitoba maple syrup comes in attractive 250-ml and 500-ml bottles and 500-ml mason jars. Linda mentioned that many people always thought maple syrup came from Eastern Canada and at first “don’t believe it or aren’t aware of Manitoba-made maple syrup.” In July, Linda appeared on CTV Winnipeg “Morning Live” at the downtown Winnipeg Farmers’ Market with a supply of their own brand of Neighbourhood Maple Syrup. For inquiries or to place an order, telephone Mitch Omichinski at (204) 428-6800. (See photo of Neighbourhood Maple Syrup bottle with this column and read the label for much more information.)

WHAT A SPRING IT WAS

For one thing, there was a lot of snow mould in places on lawns and grasses after the snow finally melted. Then there was all that fluff from cottonwood trees and other irritating pollens leading to sneezing and runny noses. Some folks were left with sinus and head congestion. Maybe you’re in an area where none of this happened but for others let me ask… How would you like to “kick back” and give your sinuses, immune system and digestive tract some support? Thanks to horseradish it may be possible, so I’ll share an old-time folk remedy as I approach the end of my Singing Gardener page. What the heck; I’ve tried it!

HORSERADISH DIGESTIVE AID

This simple remedy is highly recommended by old-timers for the relief of dropsy, fluid retention in bodily tissues and other health issues. Years ago, folks were their own green pharmacist and I still practise it. Many already know that nothing clears sinuses better than horseradish. A sports medicine specialist reports that a daily dosage of horseradish is necessary only until allergy symptoms subside. Check with your doctor if you are on a health-care program or prescription medicine.

2 ounces horseradish root, scraped

(I, Ted, use dehydrated, powdered horseradish root (Amoracia rusticana) that I bought at a scoop-and-save health food store)

1/2 ounce whole yellow, brown or black mustard seed (well bruised which can be done with a mortar and pestle)

Place horseradish and mustard seed in a heat-proof jar and pour three cups boiling water over them and stir well. Cover and let it brew for two hours then strain. The dosage is one or two teaspoons daily and can be increased later according to individual weight and tolerance. During really hot weather this formula can warm the body even more, so be aware of that. It’s also relaxing for some folks. This formula may help improve blood flow by dilation and also contributes to a restful sleep. Store the leftover portion in the fridge in an airtight jar. There will be some settling at the bottom so stir up the sediment each time before taking any. †

Mitch Omichinski who lives near the Hoop and Holler Bend in the RM of Portage la Prairie is a quiet, unassuming, gifted guy. His numerous talents are far reaching and here’s one of them. For example, Mitch really knows his stuff from start to finish when it comes to tapping silver maple and Manitoba maple trees. Under his belt is held 10 years of experience at converting harvested fluid yielded by trees into luscious, golden maple syrup. It’s a very labour-intensive and prolonged process from start to finish. His wife Linda has assisted from start to finish.

The range of sap collected per individual tree ranges between eight and 12 litres with an average of 10 litres. From that volume about 250 ml of maple syrup can eventually be expected. It’s a lot of sap for not much maple syrup, or as Mitch stated, “about 40 to one.”

I, Ted, travelled with Mitch and Linda on a couple of their journeys both in the field and at the Food Development Centre to get a first-hand look as to what it’s all about. Mitch described this spring as “a very tough season, due primarily to cold weather and snow conditions impeding both going in and getting out. This made it very difficult to access the trees, setting up the equipment and getting the sap out.” By season’s end a strong flow of early-, mid-season and late-harvested sap from generous-giving trees resulted in 2-1/2 times the volume compared to 2012.

About the author

Columnist

Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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