Two generations ago, most of our grandparents were growing up on farms. Our parents probably had some connection to a farm when they were children, and perhaps we had relatives who owned farms that we visited when we were young.
Daniel has fond memories of helping his grandfather herd cows down a road between pastures and I remember visiting my Great Aunt and Uncle's dairy farm when I was a kid.
Our children? They don't have that same connection to the land that previous generations did. We don't even have a small garden at our house, though when we visit my parents, our boys enjoy picking raspberries and other things from my parent's garden
I am so thankful that there are local farms that open their grounds to children. You have to pay, but it is a wonderful way to expose our kids to where food comes from.
Hidden Hills Farm and Saddle Club in Ooltewah, TN is one of our favorite places. Throughout the year they host special days where you can visit and learn about a particular part of their farm. By far, our favorite day to visit is Tractor Day, and our very first visit was on a Cow Milking Day.
Other days occur throughout the year, you can check out their events on their Facebook page.
Most recently, we had the privilege of visiting on their Maple Syrup Day. Another homeschool family joined us for some fun on the farm and a hands-on lesson in how Hidden Hills makes their own Maple Syrup right here in East Tennessee.
It was a lovely day to be outside. The sun was shining and the ground wasn't too muddy.
Jack immediately wanted to take a ride on a horse, and Isaac rode his very first pony. Once he was on, he wasn't thrilled and insisted I hold his hand for the whole ride. I'm sure by our next visit, he will be riding without any trepidation. Of course, Jack wanted to ride the biggest horse they had out.
After they each took a turn, we laughed as a baby calf escaped the coral and children gleefully chased it back to its mama.
Isaac was beside himself watching the chickens run amuck everywhere and was happy to pet the goats. Jack was bitten by a duck at a petting zoo a few years ago and isn't a big fan of petting the animals.
To learn about the maple syrup, the farm had a hayride that collected a group of parents and children. We tried three times to get on the hayride and it was packed each time.
So we ate our picnic lunch and the kids played. Thankfully, the farmer promised to do one last run, even though the play day was over at 12:30.
While we waited for the last wagon, Jack was able to take one last pony ride. This time he ended up on the littlest pony. I can't believe how big he is!
We finally made it onto the hayride. The kids enjoyed riding around different parts of the farm. I loved hearing how the syrup is made.
It was really quite fascinating. I plan to start reading the Little House on the Prairie books to the boys next year and we may have to find some trees to tap on our property.
The entire experience was quite educational – much more than what you would learn just reading about maple syrup in a book.
I think the opportunity to see the trees being tapped, touching and licking the sap straight from the tree, and then tasting and comparing the syrup to other kinds of syrup, is the best way to learn. And the lessons stick!
As we left the farm, Jack was eagerly counting all of the white buckets with tubes attached to the trees.
A few facts that I didn't know:
- You can tap trees besides Maple – like Sycamore and Walnut.
- Birds, like woodpeckers, are good indicators of where the good sap is. Just watch for dripping holes on the side of trees in your yard.
- You need frost at night followed by days that warm up above 40º for ideal sap flow.
We left with a bottle of local Maple Syrup and new found knowledge. The next morning I made pancakes and we devoured half of the bottle!
If you've been following along, here are our previous Friend Friday adventures this school year:
August: Coolidge Park
September: Creative Discovery Museum ⎮ Greenway Farms Picnic ⎮ Chattanooga Zoo ⎮ Big Soddy Gulf
October: Reflection Riding Center (Monday Friend Day) ⎮ Charlotte's Web
November: Creative Discovery Museum ⎮ Pioneer Days at Audobon Acres
December: Christmas Cookie Party ⎮ Christmas Cookie and Bird Ornament Party
January: Creative Discovery Museum ⎮ High Point Climbing Day ⎮ Challenger Center