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15 ways to make maple magic in rural ontario

15 Ways to Make Maple Magic in Rural Ontario

It’s that wonderful time of year again. The weather is warming up, the sap is running and that means maple magic is happening all across rural Ontario. Everywhere I look there are sap buckets tacked up to maple trees and in the air a whiff wood smoke reminds me that the local sugar bush is boiling thousands of gallons of maple syrup as we speak. Stores everywhere have delicious fresh maple syrup and maple products on display and I find myself craving pancakes and maple baked beans now more than ever. It only lasts for a month or so, but when maple magic happens you want to make the most of it. Here are 15 ways that you can make your own maple magic right now across rural Ontario.

Festival and Events
1. Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, Elmira - For one day only, Saturday March 28, 2015 Elmira will celebrate the world’s largest single day Maple Syrup Festival. Devour the pancakes, browse the craft booths and sample apple fritters and baked goods. Or check out the dog show, toy show, magic show or birds of prey show. Really, this maple syrup festival has it ALL. And the best part, all funds raised go to support local community projects.

2. Maple in the County, Prince Edward County - Held March 28 & 29, 2015. Visit one of the participating sugar bushes and enjoy pancake breakfasts with fresh maple syrup, taffy on snow, s’mores, petting zoos, BBQ sausages, fire trucks, lumberjack show, artisan vendors, wineries and more. Celebrate the first harvest of the 2015 season in Prince Edward County.

3. A Taste of Maple, Orangeville and area – This event takes place across the Headwaters area, with 21 different participants offering different foodie experiences across the area. Enjoy delicious pancake breakfasts, enroll in a maple cooking class or dine on a 3-course maple inspired dinner in a traditional dry stone Blackhouse.

4. Sweetwater Festival, Midland – Head to Wye Marsh March 28 & 29, 2015 for this unique event. The Sweetwater festival is not your average maple syrup festival. Yes, there are sugar shack tours, pancakes and taffy tasting, but there is so much more to this weekend long festival. There are birds of prey and reptile/amphibian talks; wilderness survival, cooking and woodcarving demos; and of course chickadee feeding. Escape to a time when maple syrup was made over an open fire, experience local history and explore nature at its best.

5. Holstein Maplefest, Holstein - On April 11 & 12, 2015 Love’s Sugarbush comes alive with entertainment for the young and the young at heart. Bring the whole family for a day in a 40-acre sugarbush. Theyʼll be serving up pancakes and sausages all day long. Plus, there are demonstrations in the sugar bush to enjoy in addition to a blacksmith, taffy pull, ice cream making, candle making, a rope bridge and a free craft sale with over 30 original vendors.

Pankcake Houses
6. Wheeler’s Maple Syrup Pancake House, Lanark Highlands – This Canadian lodge style dining room opened in 1996, but its history goes back much further. The massive white cedar logs used to construct the building were reclaimed from old barns and houses from a across Eastern Ontario. The centrepiece of the dining hall is the handcrafted stone fireplace built from stones collected from the Highland Line. Pancakes, homemade sausages, baked beans and french toast are is cooked in the open kitchen and served directly to your table. Stop by the Wheeler’s Maple Heritage Museum to see an astounding 5,228 unique items on display.

7. Fort Rose Maple Company & Pancake House, Park Hill – For six weekends, from Feb. 28 to April 5, enjoy pancakes, maple baked beans, cabbage salad, sausage, fruit salad, muffins, and refreshments. The pancake house is open every Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.

8. Jakeman’s Maple Products, Beachville – Open every March weekend from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm. Meals are provided by the 4H Clubs of Oxford County. Enjoy the sweet taste of Jakeman’s maple syrup, pancakes, sausages and maple baked beans. All proceeds from meals go to assist 4H programs.

9. Brooks Farm, Mount Albert – Enjoy a train or wagon ride, self-guided or guided educational tours, sap and syrup tastings,a campfire in the sugar bush and maple sugar products. The Pancake House serves pancakes with maple syrup, maple muffins and butter tarts, sausages, coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

10.Fulton’s Pancake House, Almonte - Savour fluffy pancakes, maple baked beans, sausages, and maple desserts at Fulton’s sprawling 400-acre farm. You’re invited to visit the 120-seat seasonal restaurant anytime – No reservation is needed in-season. Open daily February 14 to April 19, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

11. McLachlan Family Pancake House, Komoka - McLachlan Family Maple Syrup & Pancake House is a quaint restaurant with a nostalgic atmosphere, offering pancakes with their very own Pure Maple syrup. The menu includes pancakes, sausage, ham, maple-baked beans, home fries, fruit salad, beverage adults – $12, kids 12 and under – $7.00. Open everyday from March 1st to April 4th, 9 am to 3:30 pm.

Maple Syrup Bush Tours
12. St. Jacob’s Maple Syrup Bush Tours, St. Jacob’s – A visit you won’t forget! Travel from the St Jacobs Farmers Market on a horse-drawn wagon to a sugar bush during the peak of the sap run. As you travel through the tall Sugar Bush you will see the methods used to collect sap, learn how maple syrup is produced as well as see the different working methods from the past and present. As you’re watching the steam rise and sipping on complimentary hot beverages memories are sure to be made. Pancakes and maple syrup are also offered as part of the tour. Adults – $18.00, Children (ages 4-12) – $10.00, Children (ages 3-under) – Free.

13. White Meadows Farms, Pelham - Starting in mid February right through to the beginning of April the Sugar Shuttle takes you on a Sugar Bush adventure where you begin your self-guided picturesque tour on our groomed trails. Discover activities, indigenous trees and themed presentations. Re-enactors, dressed in period costumes, demonstrate and share the rich history of Canada’s first harvest of the year, maple syrup. Several stations have fires where you can get warm; if you get hungry we have special yummy products only offered in the bush as well.

14. Richardson Farms, Dunnville - Includes a wagon ride to the bush. Take a walk along a groomed trail in our Carolinian forest and learn about the various species of trees that grow in this ecosystem. See how they collect sap by bucket and pipeline and learn how sap is pumped from the trees to the middle of the bush. See how maple taffy is made and sample this sweet treat (an extra charge applies). Try your hand at tapping a tree. When you come back to the farm, be sure to stop at the sugar shanty building to see how sap from the bush is boiled into pure maple syrup.

15. McCully’s Hill Farm, St. Marys - Come out to the farm and learn how maple syrup is made. Take a horse drawn wagon ride through the sugar bush, and see how sap is collected then visit the sugar shack to learn how it is turned into maple syrup. Make a stop in the barn and see what the animals are up to and then stay for a delicious pancake brunch featuring McCully’s own maple syrup. Open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am – 2 pm from March 7 to 29th, 2015.

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Heather Church – Keep Your Pants On

I discovered Gestalt Belts and Buckles last May after an exhaustive search for a birthday gift for my hard-to-buy-for husband. I actually squealed with delight when I found Heather Church’s one-of-a-kind custom-made belts in Bayfield! The belts are the perfect combination of style meets utility.

As a line on their website reads, “how wonderful it is that you have been able to marry the utilitarianism of pant-holding-up with creative design and self expression.” Not only was I was sold, I was about to win the Wife of the Year award! I had at long last found the PERFECT gift!

Belt and Buckle were a budget-friendly 65.00, totally reasonable considering my husband would be sporting an original piece of art around his waist. And I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet! The best part? The buckles easily snap off and can be exchanged with any other one-of-a-kind buckle from the Gestalt on-line shop!

I have found next year’s perfect gift, and the year after that and the year after that and…

I knew instantly that this was a shop that needed to be featured on the Ruralist! I started my investigative work and and was surprised to find that the woman behind the art is just as interesting and one-of-a-kind as the product she creates! I entered the Gestalt workshop, where I was greeted with a smile by Heather, a petite and pretty blonde. Heather wore a blue bandana, paint-splattered jeans and steel-toe boots, a look that she pulled off quite well, I might add!

The stereo was playing the Contantines and Feist’s version of Islands in the Stream. The atmosphere was relaxed and cozy, despite the shop’s decor of power tools, blowtorches and sheets of steel. I told Heather I wanted to get a few photos of her in action for the blog. I asked her to do some welding, but, concerned about me getting a blast of “welder’s flash,” she suggested she do some grinding instead. As an artist herself, she knew instinctively what I was after. “It’ll make some cool sparks!” she added.

I was amazed at how easily she floated through her workspace of power tools, igniting this and hauling that. This woman was impressively strong despite her small frame.

I got down to the business of photography, and as I snapped, we chatted about how she got started in this industrious line of work.

Heather graduated with a degree in philosophy (the wall covered with beautiful metal plaques of famous and inspiring quotes begins to make a lot of sense). She now refers to herself as a “business woman who is in the business of art.”

The Gestalt philosophy is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Heather was inspired, adopted the name for her business, and Gestalt was born. Heather designs belt buckles, signage, functional household items, and basically anything else that she is inspired to create. With the music cranked and the sparks flying, Heather harnesses her creative energy late at night when she can work with no distractions and interruptions (other than her rescued puppy, Bailey).

Heather has developed her sales approach both independently online, at, and through her participation in the One of a Kind Craft Show, as well as at many music festivals across Ontario. Music and art intertwine in all aspects of Heather’s life (the stereo has now flipped to a song by Tom Waits). Gestalt allows her to indulge not only in attending music festivals, but also in expanding her extensive collection of over 400 LPs.

These days, Heather’s dad, who is semi-retired, comes to help her in the shop. Together, Heather says they “get to bang around on steel” and have fun. It’s enviable father-daughter quality time, and no doubt Heather’s dad is in awe of his brilliant and talented daughter. We sure are!

The images she etches onto a belt’s surface are either ones she has created herself from her own photography or images she’s purchased from other artists she admires. While she does use the same image repeatedly, the process she uses to etch each design is organic and every buckle has its own unique impression, and is truly one of a kind.

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Snapshots of process of making lasagna

How to Make Hayter’s Turkey Lasagna

All right folks, I’m no chef. In fact, if I’m being honest, cooking is something that stresses me out a bit. Finding a meal that’s healthy, easy and that everyone will eat is a challenge, as anyone knows. It’s a challenge that I secretly dread each evening.

In spite of that, I’m about about to share with you a favourite recipe out of my own family cookbook. This lasagna is gobbled up within minutes of it coming out of the oven! It’s made with Hayter’s Turkey Sausage and Pine River Cheese.

As I prepared dinner tonight I took a few iPhone shots to show you the process. This is one of my more involved dinner selections, prep takes about 30 minutes and then I watch a bit of the boob-tube with the kids while it cooks for another 20, but it’s worth every minute of effort!



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  • Lorraine - This looks absolutely amazing and a bit of a switch from the regular lasagna. I’m always looking for new meal ideas and I am very vocal about not being a great chef. Cooking is something I don’t really enjoy so thanks for the inspiration! I’m sure my family will appreciate it :-)ReplyCancel

    • Sarah Koopmans - You’re very welcome, Lorraine! Let us know how your family likes their turkey lasagna!ReplyCancel

  • {Try} 5 Ways to Enjoy March Break in Rural Ontario » Ruralist - […] of Ruralist recipes that you can make with your family. I personally suggest trying this recipe for Hayter’s Turkey Sausage Lasagna or Sarah’s incredible Pulled Pork. If you’re looking for a winter warm-up, you must try […]ReplyCancel

6 reasons to love Lucan


6 Reasons to Love Lucan

When you drive through Lucan – Pull Over!

The town of Lucan is a great stop off for day trippers or history buffs to enjoy shopping, vintage treasure hunting or good food. Located 20 minutes north of London, Lucan may be famous for it’s local history but it’s gaining a reputation as a pleasant stop over for visitors travelling north to cottage country and beyond. Frankly, I think you could make a Lucan a destination all on it’s own.

After conducting a familiarization trip of my own to Lucan, I can attest that Lucan is definitely Ruralist approved. Here are six things I recommend to see and do the next time you’re in town.

The Highlights

Lucan Architectural – Every time I drive through Lucan I find myself rubber-necking to get a look at the front yard of Lucan Architectural. There is an abundance of eye catching metal furnishings and art that calls my name. If you’re a fan of metal urns, tin signage, or outdoor furniture you’ll notice it. Inside you’ll be wowed that the selection of beautifully handcrafted Mennonite furniture and metal work. I fell in love with a kitchen island that is exactly what I’ve been looking for, for years. I was thrilled that this solid wood quality piece of furniture was priced at $495, and it looks great in my house kitchen! 277 Main Street North

Warehouse 74 - Located right next door to Lucan Architectural, where Mr. Haney’s Antique Market used to be, now stands Warehouse 74, a vintage industrial home furnishing shop. Get a piece in the popular vintage industrial style, or commission something made by local builders. Or, find original one-of-a-kind articles made of salvaged woods and other materials from around the world. At the only shop of its kind in the area, you’ll find much more than furniture: everything from lighting to artwork to office furniture to storage solutions! 269 Main Street North 

Lucan Area Heritage & Donnelly Museum - This museum is dedicated to the preservation and retelling of the most famous historical events of the area. Events such as the arrival and settlement of the area by Irish immigrants, the infamous Donnelly murders, and the founding of Wilberforce by a Black community from Cincinnati. An 1850 “Donnelly Log Cabin” takes you back in time, allowing you to visualize the tragic events that occurred in the early morning hours of February 4, 1880. (photo courtesy of the Lucan Area Heritage & Donnelly Museum). 171 Main Street

O’Leary’s Irish Pub - Across the street from the museum they can pull you a pint of Black Donnelly lager, brewed by Grand River Brewing Company. It’s a great place to be on St. Paddy’s Day, when you can enjoy live Irish music, green beer, and a special themed menu. This quintessential Irish pub also serves a legendary Steak & Guinness pie you’ll want to try. 172 Main St.

The Stuffed Zucchini – I’m nuts for Thai food. I take any opportunity to treat myself to pad thai, green curry or spring rolls. The Stuffed Zucchini is a great little Thai restaurant located next door to the museum. the food is delicious, hot and plentiful. I definitely recommend you stop in for a bite. 175 Main St.

Earthen Elegance - You won’t miss this refreshing floral and giftware boutique located on the west side of Main St. beside the museum, their store window is beautifully styled. The selection of flowers in stock here is outstanding, different orchids, Bells of Ireland and gerberas are just a few. If you are looking for pretty gift ideas you’ll  also find them here. 165 Main St.


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  • Ashley - I LOVE Mr. Haney’s Market. I cannot pass through Lucan without stopping for a look (and almost always a purchase!). Can’t get enough :)
    Great article Sarah!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - Scratch that… Great article Erin!!ReplyCancel

    • Erin Roy - Thanks Ashley!
      Next time you’re there snap a picture and tag us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and show us what you find, we’d love to see.
      Thanks for reading Ruralist,


  • Rhonda - Mr. Haney’s isn’t there any longer unless it has re-opened somewhere.ReplyCancel

    • Sarah Koopmans - Thanks Jim & Rhonda. We’ve now updated the graphic with an image from Warehouse 74.ReplyCancel

  • Jim Schwartz - Mr. Haney’s closed a year ago.ReplyCancel

Meet Scott Adamson of Gaslight Electric Signs & Lighting

Scott Adamson can’t imagine living and running his business anywhere but in Almonte, Ontario. Owner and Proprietor of Gaslight Electric Signs and Lighting, he specializes in designing and building historically inspired illuminated signage. Says Adamson, “Almonte was the perfect place to start a business like this. It has such a supportive community, with a great entreprenurial spirit. I think we’re going to see amazing things happen here over the next few years.” Currently operating on his own he is looking to expand his business. Adamson explains, “the logistics and financials would be impossible in an urban setting.”

Adamson considered the possibility of going into business for a few years before he finally made the leap. In his previous career as a freelance editorial photographer he was fascinated by old steel signs that were worn and weathered that he sometimes came across. He explains that, “we have all become so used to acrylic or vinyl signage that I began to think that maybe there was a place for these old signs. They would certainly stand out from the crowd.” His passion finally took over and he was ready to go for it, trading in computer work for working with his hands. Now he builds signage of all shapes and sizes from everything from large commerical projects to home decor.

There is no manual for building vintage signs, so Adamson found himself doing a lot of detective work and trial and error in the beginning. When he first started making signs and lighting all of the tools he had would fit in a tiny tool box, so began his hunt for old metal working equipment and all the pieces to build out his shop located at his home in Almonte. Everything Adamson builds is made by hand with basic tools and raw materials. Although he is continuously refining his process to increase efficiency, he is determined to maintain the integrity of his craftsmanship over automation. He continues to build on his knowledge of vintage signs and this spring Gaslight Electric will offer vintage-style neon tube lighting, which will be a further compliment to his line of products.

When I asked him what inspires him, Adamson replied, “I admire old ingenuity. I think technology is great…but when I walk into an old barn and see beams held together with nothing but clever cuts and it’s own weight, I’m in awe. I love it when the power goes out and you can plug in an old rotary phone and it works. I’m also in awe of the old fridge in my parents garage that has worked flawlessly for over half a century. I’ve always been a sucker for nostaligia and sentimentality.”

When he’s not making signs, Adamson and his fiance Karyn can be found in and around Almonte, drinking coffee and complaining about the weather. When asked about life in Almnonte he adds, “being in a small town is great because you get to know everyone, and you’re stuck with them, so you better be friends.”


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  • Colleen - I love your local artist features and have been looking for a local sign maker with a vintage industrial vibe, perfect! Keep sharing our local artisans. Thank you :)ReplyCancel