Along a road that winds through the backcountry of Nova Scotia, Canada, is the long lane up through blueberry fields to Sugar Moon Farm.
A 20 minute drive from Tatamagouche, on the north shore of Nova Scotia, the drive to get there is part of the adventure.
A true year round sugar bush experience, Sugar Moon Farm has set out to keep the history and taste of Nova Scotia Maple Syrup alive throughout the year.
The Cobequid mountain area is said to have some of the best sugar maples for making syrup.
Quita Gray and Scott Whitelaw and their three daughters have been running the Sugar Bush since 1996, when they bought the property from the previous owner who ran a smaller sugar bush and dining cabin.
Now this couple and their staff produce 1200 litres of maple syrup a year and run a busy eatery in a log building, where they serve a menu including pancakes, waffles and sausages with of course, all the real maple syrup you need. The pancakes were made with heritage Red Fyfe Flour, milled in this area, however the flour is increasingly hard to source because it is now classified as a protected food. They are more recently using Acadia Wheat from the Speerville Mills in New Brunswick. Their wheat is organic and fits with the quality values of Sugar Moon Farm.
Inside the log cabin are long tables and benches, in front of an open-hearth fireplace, that gives the diner the feeling of having a meal in a logger’s camp. Waiting diners can watch the cook flipping pancakes on the grill, and we also enjoyed a syrup tasting and learning experience. Our server brought three bottles of maple syrup of differing colours to the table. We learned that the darkness and taste differs as the season progresses because of the change in soil minerals, and that affects the sap.
I read a section from a book from their collection, called Sugar Bush Antiques, by Virginia Vidler. It told a story about the First Nations history of collecting maple syrup, a tradition they taught to the settlers – a fine gift, that keeps on giving today. While there are many stories about how those of the First Nations discovered the sweet sap and to make syrup, this one was interesting. Here is a description of the tale. A grandmother accidentally cut a slit from the bark of a maple tree and when she saw liquid dripping down the bark, she tasted it and discovered how sweet it was. She showed her grandson, who told her that the sweet taste would make women lazy and to keep them busy, he boiled water and poured it over the trees to water down the sap. He then told them they should boil the sap to keep the women busy. The sap, boiled down became the syrup, which has been enjoyed since those times.
While we waited we were served fresh biscuits with maple butter, a sweet, caramel coloured topping. Our server told us that whipping pure maple syrup made the Maple Butter.
I poured maple syrup on three pancakes on the plate and dug into the juicy German smoked sausage. There were many other offerings on the menu, but I stuck to the traditional. I could have added Nova Scotia blueberries to the pancakes, but next time….
Sugar Moon farm collects their maple sap from their Sugar Maples using 2500 taps. As well, other local farmers provide them with sap that they boil down in their huge boiler, using wood to fuel the condenser.
An asset to the dining experience is the tour of the operation throughout the year, offered to each guest. A demonstration is given of how the collection of sap from the trees in brought to the boilers using plastic tubing. Quita always begins her tours with an acknowledgment that it was those of our First Nations that brought us maple syrup.
A video explains the process and a look at the boiling equipment, brings appreciation to the syrup we had just enjoyed.
During the winter, visitors can watch the process of making maple syrup. During the summer, hikers can enjoy the Rogart Mountain Trail, a 6.2 kilometre loop that begins and ends at the parking lot in the woods around the log restaurant. In the winter, the farm rents snowshoes, so a visit can include a tromp in the snow and a great meal.
Sugar Moon Farm also has frequent Chef’s Nights that turn the sugar shack into a high class and unique dining experience.
I have been to Sugar Moon Farm many times and every time I go, it is more special than the time before. Perhaps it is understanding the work it takes to make this special syrup from maple sap. Perhaps it is just the anticipation of the tastes or knowing that this taste has been around for centuries and it’s taste comes from the knowledge of the people of our First Nations.
I’ll be back to Sugar Moon Farm again.
Partly because Quita and I are thinking of planning a heritage meal event in the summer of 2015. Stay tuned, but in the meantime enjoy the pancakes….and syrup of course…
If you go….
Open every day from June 28 – Labour Day 8 am to 3pm
221 Alex MacDonald Road
Earltown, Nova Scotia (902)657-3348