When we purchased the FLX Farmhouse in the dead of winter, we had no idea what treasures were waiting for us on the land. To truly explore the forest behind us, we had to wait till spring, when the woods becomes alive! While we worked hard on renovating the house, we would seek solace in the woods behind it. Taking walks to calm the chaos. Breathing deeply, pausing, and connecting to nature. Ferns lined the forest bed, birds were singing, grouse were drumming to their mating song and hoovering above were the majestic sugar and red maple trees!
We had no idea the land was filled with them. Hundreds and hundreds of sugar maple and red maple trees dotted the land with other trees like black locust, black cherry, the mighty oak and a few white pines. And who was a favorite of ours to see in the forest? The ruffed grouse. We would see them walking the paths and they even introduced us to some of their babies! We feel blessed to have them on our land, a safe haven for them to live and mate.
Fast forward to the fall when the renovation was nearly completion, we couldn't help but fall in love with the forest, now called a sugarbush, which is a forest that is primarily used for maple syrup production. Intrigued by the maples, we dove down the rabbit hole of maple syrup making and Grouse Hill Maple Farm began to take shape.
Wanting to learn more about our craft and our sugarbush, we attended Cornell's Maple Camp in 2023 and this is where we learned about certifying our sugarbush as a bird-friendly sugarbush, creating and maintaining a sugarbush to optimize breeding and foraging opportunities for forest birds in decline. After an assessment of our sugarbush, we qualified as having a Bird-Friendly Sugarbush, thereby producing Bird-Friendly Maple Syrup.
This was an exciting day! Grouse Hill Maple Farm is a certified bird-friendly maple producer, the first to certify on Seneca Lake! You can read about the program here.
Our first sugaring season was the winter/spring of 2023. We tapped 12 trees and spent 5 weekends collecting sap, boiling it down in our evaporator and bottling up some of the gorgeous tree nectar. A labor of love for sure, we woke at dawn and finished into the late hours of the night with the moon shining upon us. It was cold, damp, and challenging on many levels, but in the end, we LOVED it! Our family and friends participated in tapping, harvesting and boiling and got to taste the sweet deliciousness throughout the process; and that was awesome too!
While our maple farm may be micro at the moment, our heart and love for it is big! The process itself was amazing to be a part of. From selecting the trees to gathering sap and boiling it down, we loved this labor of love. Pure, unblended, 100% natural maple syrup. Harvested, boiled over a wood fire, bottled and labeled by hand, all done on our farm.
What's next? We plan to tap 40-50 trees in 2024 and are offering our Adopt A Maple Tree Program! A fun and interactive way to support our budding farm and get your hands on some tasty Finger Lakes maple syrup! You'll even have a chance to experience our Tap-to-Table Experience!