If you’re living in the Northeast suburbs, what better way is there to experience winter than to Tap-A-Tree? Several places in the area celebrate the delicious maple syrup season but my personal favorite happens at Wilton, CT’s Ambler Farm. This months long event is adorable and popular. Find out all the details below and be sure to sign up on January 17th.
What It Means To Tap A Tree
Maple syrup - and I’m talking the really good kind here, NOT Aunt Jemima from your local supermarket - is made by collecting sap from maple trees and then boiling that sap down until the excess water evaporates. The super fun part in this equation is collecting that sap.
February through late March is the best time in the Northeast for collecting sap. Sap flows when temperatures are above freezing during the day but below freezing at night. Weather variants from day to day will affect the amount of sap collected that day and no two sap seasons produce the same amounts and qualities of sap.
To collect sap, a tap is inserted into a maple tree and then a bucket is hung right below that tap to collect sap as it flows. Someone should regularly check that bucket for overflow and to remove any leaves or debris that get inside.
Why It’s Best at Ambler Farm
At the beautiful Ambler Farm in Wilton, CT, each family of participants in the Tap-A-Tree Program is given its own numbered bucket to be hung below the preexisting taps inserted by farm staff into the many maple trees at the farm. Visitors can then come back as often as they like to check on their bucket and empty any collected sap into the farm’s large communal bucket, which the farmers will then begin boiling down in the farm’s very own sugar shack.
What makes Ambler Farm’s program so special can be summarized in four words: Program Director, Kevin Meehan. Mr. Meehan has been a public elementary school science teacher for many years and it SHOWS. He is knowledgeable, passionate and patient. As director of the Tap-A-Tree program, Mr. Meehan will send fascinating email updates to participants detailing how sap is flowing that particular week (and usually indicating whether or not it's a good time to come by the farm to collect your tree’s sap). He also teaches the required training session at the farm - this is where participants will come to the farm to learn a bit about the science and history of the maple syrup process and to pick their very own dedicated maple tree from which to collect sap. Personally, I could listen to Mr. Meehan speak about maple syrup all day long.
The Grand Finale
On March 2nd and again on March 9th, when the farm is finished boiling all the sap down into maple syrup in its sugar shack, they host a Maple Syrup Open House from 1:00 - 2:00pm those days. These FREE events celebrate the history and process of making maple syrup. There will be interactive, fun lessons about making syrup, and bottles of farm’s maple syrup available for purchase. Best of all, guests will be able to taste a sample of the farm’s maple syrup over vanilla ice cream!
The Maple Syrup Open Houses are open to everyone - whether or not you participated in the Tap-A-Tree program. But if you did participate, the Open House is a great time to pick up your FREE bottle of maple syrup included in your program cost.
Tap-A-Tree at Ambler Farm is a popular event and limited to just 110 families (there are only so many maple trees, people!). Registration for non-members opens January 17th - so mark your calendars! Member registration is open now.
The cost to participate is $65 per family ($60 for members) and as mentioned above, participation includes one complimentary bottle of maple syrup.
To participate, your family must attend ONE of the two training sessions offered at the farm on Saturday, February 2nd at 10am or 1pm. This is where you receive your bucket and hang it on your very own tree. After you complete training, you may visit the farm as frequently or infrequently as you want to check on and empty your bucket. The farm is happy to collect the sap in your bucket for you when you can’t make it to the farm - but I do recommend going at least once during the season to check on your bucket. It’s fun! And trust me, the bottle of maple syrup you’ll receive at the end is insanely delicious!!