It's sugar season, which means the sap is running and syrup is boiling at Sugar Moon Farm.
The year-round maple destination is tucked away in the sugar woods on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, and is a place to eat, hike, shop and learn.
Quita Gray owns the business with her husband Scott Whitelaw, and says about 2,500 sugar maple trees have been tapped on the 200-acre farm.
"The sap runs this time of year when the sugar maples wake up after being frozen all winter," she says. "The sap travels through a network of tubing down the hill to our sugar camp and is collected in a tank."
To turn sap into syrup, the farm boils it in a wood-fired evaporator. This concentrates the sugars naturally found in the tree sap by removing water in the form of steam.
It takes about 40 litres of sap to produce one litre of maple syrup.
Gray says the spring tradition is one that goes back thousands of years.
"There is a history, thousands of years old, of gathering sap in the spring and either eating the sap or changing it into sugars," she says. "That's a tradition started by the Indigenous peoples, in this area it was the Mi'kmaq, so they taught everyone else."
Sugar Moon Farm is named after what the Mi'kmaq people call the third full moon of the year - the sugar maple moon. Gray says she is proud and humbled to continue the Indigenous tradition.
Like virtually all businesses, Sugar Moon Farm has changed how it operates during the pandemic to keep staff and customers safe. It continues to serve maple-inspired food out of its log restaurant but business hours are limited to weekends by reservation only for dine-in services, and pre-order take-out.
Currently it is offering its Maple Magic Package, which includes a dine-in pancake brunch, outdoor tour, and maple syrup on snow.
"Our business evolved into a lot of reserved packages before COVID," she says. "Reintroducing the Maple Magic package is our return to dine-in."
Visitors are able to purchase maple products from the farm's shop on weekends and its online store offers shipping and pickup.
Complete the maple experience with a hike on the Rogart Mountain Trail. It's a 6.2 km loop that begins and ends at the farm's parking lot.
"The pairing of an outdoor experience like hiking with great food is our model," she says. "We are surrounded by incredible wilderness and hiking trails that were built by the Cobequid Eco-Trails Society, and we are the trailhead for this network of trails here."
Gray says the Rogart Mountain Trail is quite rugged and gains significant elevation. She recommends allocating up to three hours to hike the entire loop.
The area can get significant amounts of snow in the winter, but don't let that stop you from exploring the area. Sugar Moon Farm offers snowshoe rentals for adults and children that range in price from $5-$15.
Check out the farm's website for the most up-to-date information on its hours and operation.