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Contributed photo by Mike Hills / Kids watch as sap flows into a bucket from a maple tree at Hidden Hills Farm during a previous year's farm play day focused on maple syrup.

Hidden Hills Farm & Saddle Club is offering kids and parents opportunities to learn how maple syrup is made and test the fresh product during its semimonthly farm play days in February.

Held the second Friday and fourth Thursday of each month from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., farm play days feature a different theme every month. Examples include cow milking on the raw-milk-producing farm, and tractor days when kids can take tractor rides and learn what the controls do (depending on age).

"We want people to be excited every time they come to the farm," said Mike Hills, who owns the farm with wife Tara.

For the maple syrup theme days, attendees take a hayride to the farm's maple trees. They learn how to tap a tree and see how the sap flows from the trunk down through a hose into a bucket. Attendees also empty buckets of sap from trees tapped the night before, which they then take to the evaporator used to convert sap into syrup.

Kids can taste the sap coming right out of the tree, as well as the finished product. Hills said they typically give attendees the opportunity to compare Hidden Hills' syrup to other types, such as syrup from Canada or made from high fructose corn syrup.

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Contributed photo by Mike Hills / A finished bottle of syrup produced at Hidden Hills Farm is shown.

The working farm has more than 80 horses as well as goats, sheep, ponies and chickens. During every farm play day, kids can play with all the animals, feed the chickens and stand in line to ride a horse or pony as many times as they like. A craft related to the month's theme is also a standard activity every farm day.

Although directed at children ages 6 months to 6 years and their parents, all ages are welcome, said Hills. When Hidden Hills introduced its farm days in 2006, they were for preschool aged children only, but the Hills have since realized that the concept is appealing to older kids as well — particularly in the home-school community, he said.

The cost is $10 for the first child and $5 for each additional child, which Hills said is very reasonable considering what's typically charged to ride horses for a few hours.

No advance registration is necessary, but a required waiver found on the farm's website can be filled out beforehand.

Farm days are usually held rain or shine, though if weather is particularly nasty, Hills said they occasionally cancel and spread the word via their Facebook page.

Hidden Hills Farm & Saddle Club is at 5900 Edgmon Road in Ooltewah and can be reached at 488-3993. For more information, visit hiddenhillsfarm.com or the farm's Facebook page.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

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