Check Website for Tour Times
There’s no doubt about it, New Englanders love our maple syrup. Whether on pancakes, paired with pumpkin and squash, or blended into our favorite ice cream, it’s something that appeals to both kids and adults. Real maple syrup is a bit less common, largely due to cost, but it’s delicious drizzled on just about anything.
Have you ever wondered how real maple syrup is made? Did you ever read about it in a book, and want to try it out for yourself? That’s exactly what happened with Kathy and Paul from Turtle Lane Maple Farm in North Andover. After learning about the process on a trip to New Hampshire with their four daughters, the family decided to give it a try on their own. They tapped their backyard trees, boiled down the sap on their grill, and fell in love. Turtle Lane Maple Farm was born.
My family first visited Turtle Lane Maple Farm in four years ago with friends. We parked out on the street and felt like we were trespassing as we wandered behind their house to the sugar shack. Paul gave us a thorough explanation of the process and we got to sample the sap/syrup at various stages in the process. We returned to Turtle Lane recently and were amazed to see a gorgeous new sugar shack, some great new equipment and a crowd of interested people.
Paul, Kathy, and their family have moved beyond just tapping trees in their own back yard. They now have permission to tap various locations throughout town. Volunteers help them get up and running, and the family spends every weekend from January to March working on their labor of love. They are simply passionate about sharing this traditional process with others and it shows. Throughout the season they offer free tours to school groups and anyone else who is interested. They recover some of their costs through the sale of their delicious products, but for them, it’s more about sharing with the community.
Our most recent visit to Turtle Lane was certainly education, if a bit crowded. The shack was full of kids and adults listening to Paul as he walked us through the process. Kathy distributed samples along the way, first unprocessed sap, then mid-boiled sap, then boiled down syrup, and then a delicious array of their maple products. My family preferred the maple cream which is really just maple sugar with enough moisture left in to make it easy to spread. It’s delightful on toast! We had maple candies, maple sugar, and even some bacon maple ice cream from a local shop.
Turtle Lane Maple Farm is open for drop in visitors on weekends whenever they are boiling syrup. You can check out their website starting in late January for times. They are usually open in late February through March, but it’s largely dependent on the weather and if the sap is flowing. The tour is free and takes about an hour, but it runs on a rolling basis throughout the day. While everyone is welcome, the tour is best for elementary school kids and older, as younger kids are likely to be bored. Also, the shack is dominated by very large and hot evaporator. While it’s reasonably safe, it’s not a good place for young children to be running around. They are located in North Andover, which is about 30 minutes outside of Boston right off Route 93.
More Boston-area sugar shacks (Always check early in the season for registration and event options):
Christy Matte is a freelance writer and blogger, as well as co-founder of Boston Parent Bloggers. She blogs about family life at QuirkyFusion.com and family technology at Quirky-Tech.com.