If it seems as though this winter will never end, take heart, The sweet scents of maple syrup in the making clearly announce that spring is coming—and they are a good reason to plan a visit to Litchfield and Fairfield counties in Western Connecticut.
Sugar maples are plentiful in these scenic areas and more than a dozen sugarhouses from private farms to nature centers welcome visitors during peak syrup season in March. Guests will view the process from tap to tastes, see how the big bubbling kettles of thin sap boil down to thick fragrant syrup and get to sample the delicious results. Some operations are open every weekend, some have special maple celebration days and some smaller farms request a call to be sure they are ready for company.
For the sap to run, nights below freezing and warm days are required, so dates can vary. A call always is a good idea before visiting.
The Maple Calendar
Lamothe’s Sugar House on 89 Stone Rd. in Burlington starts the season early with the chance to see how syrup is made every weekend from February 9 to March 24 from 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.. This family owned operation began as a hobby with seven taps and has grown to over 4500 taps and a year-round showroom. Coffee and cider are complimentary to visitors. The shop has a multitude of interesting maple sugar products that includes: maple sugar spice rubs, maple candy, kettlecorn and nuts, and even maple barbeque sauce. Check their website for a special discount on Lamothe’s spices. Along with the maple syrup business the family also raise pigs, and mini-lop bunnies. For more information www.lamothesugarhouse.com.
One of the busiest sugaring spots is the Flanders Sugar House at Van Vleck Farm Sanctuary in Woodbury. Staff and volunteers conduct maple syrup demonstrations on on March 9 &10. The maple sugar season ends with the annual grand finale Maple Celebration on March 16. The final festival on March 16 features music, vendors, walks, cooking and maple candy making demonstrations, maple food sampling and special kids’ crafts and activities.
Audubon Sharon will be holding its annual MapleFest on Saturday, March 16 between 10 am and 4 pm at the Sharon Audubon Center, Route 4, Sharon, CT. On-going guided 40-minute tours will lead visitors through the Center’s sugaring operation, including a working sugarhouse and a re-creation of Native American and early colonial sugaring methods. Participants can watch as pure sugar maple sap is collected from the trees and turned into delicious maple syrup. Admission for the event is $5.00 adults and $3.00 children. This hands-on, sensory-based experience focuses on trees as living organisms and the concept of sustainable agriculture in a forest ecosystem. Our teaching method incorporates forest ecology and cultural history into the joy and excitement of maple syrup production. Fresh syrup will be available for purchase in the Sharon Audubon Center Nature Store while supplies last. For more information on MapleFest or the Audubon Sharon sugaring operation, contact the Audubon Center at (860) 364-0520 or visit www.sharon.audubon.org. Depending on sap flow, the sugarhouse will also be open each weekend in March for visitors. Call ahead to see if Audubon staff will be boiling sap.
Also on March 16 the New Canaan Nature Center will hold tree-tapping demos, and a real maple sap boil down at their Sugar Shack, as well as give a look at historic methods of making maple syrup from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.. Families can also enjoy a delicious Pancake Brunch with maple syrup, join naturalists for a hike along “Maple Lane” to learn tree identification tips, warm up around the campfire to share tall tales, make a Maple craft and take home souvenir treats from a Maple Bake Sale. Members $8 and non-Members $12, kids 2 and under free. www.newcanaannature.org.
At Warrups Farm on 11 John Read Rd. in Redding, visitors are welcome the first three weekends in March to watch the whole process, sap to syrup in the log cabin sugar house, to take a taste of the sap direct from the trees and as well as the almost-ready syrup. Guests can savor all of the harbingers of spring on a farm. The sugaring demonstrations take place from noon to 5 p.m. For more information www.warrupsfarm.com.
On March 9 – 10 At the Open House Maple Festival at the Great Brook Sugar House on Sullivan Farm, located on Rte. 202 in New Milford is a maple sugaring program for families on Saturdays and Sundays March 2,3,9 and 10 from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Participants will learn the natural and cultural history of maple sugar as well as try the bit brace drill, see sap flowing as well as cook and taste the syrup. For more information http://sullivanfarmnm.org.
For area information on what to see and do visit www.visitwesternct.com