(From 10/15/09) Okay, go get yourself a cuppa . . . we're going on a field trip!
Every fall, our family piles in the van and sets off in search of our own great pumpkin. We go miles. It takes us all day. It is an event. It just wouldn't suit our family to head to the nearest grocery store -- or even the nearest pumpkin farm -- to get our Halloween pumpkins and fall decorations. No. We must travel far and wide.
We always make it into an adventure -- bringing food and snacks and drinks. The kids usually bring along a companion of the toy variety, usually a stuffed animal or doll of some sort. And we try and go on weekday when the other schools are in session, but ours is not. It makes it much more fun to think of the fun we're having while others are in school, you know.
So we set out early Monday morning for our fall adventure. We stopped at a local market on our way out of town. They have an old-fashioned candy section second to none. There are the old bushel barrels full of individually wrapped candies -- everything from rootbeer barrels to the old-fashioned cough drops in the striped wrappers. There are also the modern candies and the campy kid candy, etc. The seasonal candy is the most fun. Have you seen those seasonal boxes of Dots? "Blood Orange" flavored Bats. There are also Candy Corn striped Dots. And light green Ghost Dots. Who knew? We just had to get the gummy chicken feet! We each also picked our favorites and moved on . . .
(My son chose those little wax bottles with the sweet syrup inside. Remember those? I didn't realize, though, until later, that he thought one ate the whole thing. He was a bit disappointed when we tutored him on biting the "top" off and drinking the liquid and discarding the rest. Such a waste to him. Remember that lesson?)
Anyway, we continued on and finally reached our first pumpkin farm and pie stand. I took several pictures of the place, but somehow missed the camera wrist strap hanging right in front of the lens!
Well, you get the idea. See the size of those pumpkins?
This is an Amish farm and pie stand. This year, they had the most incredible pumpkins. Huge! And wonderful varieties. Not one of these would be found in the typical grocery store. Unfortunately, unlike the pumpkins, the pies have declined. I suspect they are under new ownership -- more focus on farming, less on baking. Oh well, that'll be better for my waistline.
We bought two huge pumpkins and one smaller white pumpkin here. We had to use a wheelbarrow to get them to the van, one at a time. I couldn't lift one for even a moment. Hugest pumpkins we've ever bought -- and for the price we usually pay for the typical pumpkins. Wow!
I had to laugh at this scene in the parking lot:
Man's Work! It was all fun and games picking out the behemoth pumpkins; the work came in getting them in the vans!
And we "grin and buy it." Corn shocks, I mean.
We know, full well, that the farmers must laugh at the city kids that actually pay for these, but I can't help it, I don't have a corn field out my back door and they look pretty by the front door this time of year.
Then off we went to the next destination. This is a wonderful place that really defies description. Picture an elderly couple with the energy of kids. They have a salvage, woodworking, petting farm kind of place. It is charming, yet a tad curmudgeonly, all at the same time. We were treated to this sign as we parked:
But then you turn around, and you see this beautiful, wonderful, amazing barn, all painted by the same hands that made that sign:
I wish I could post a larger image of it. (Hey, I just realized you can click on it to see it larger! If you do, notice the bike in front covered in dried grapevines and lights . . . 'tis one of the things we bought! And wouldn't that rusty bed make a great garden feature . . . "flowerbed?!") This barn is at least 30' high and all handpainted. It is a mural of himself and his wife and their dog. That is them at the top, childhood sweethearts, sitting under a tree next to a wagon. There they are at the lower right in modern day, they must be in their 80s. The window on the top left is real; the window on the top right is painted. Something, eh?
You could wander around in this and another barn for hours, but then there are the grounds which hold any and everything. He has salvaged vintage windows stacked up side by side, like books on a shelf, by the hundreds. Clawfoot bathtubs leaning in a row, probably 15 or so. I didn't think to get a picture of these things as they really become part of the landscape after you become accustomed to this place.
If you wander around long enough, you'll come upon this fella:
He's friendly enough as long as you don't come inside his gate. He turns all around so you can see how fancy he is. He really is beautiful. He has a missus, but she's quite shy. He says not a word until you turn your back to walk away.
So we wandered and wandered and ended up buying a couple of things for which we already had no room in the van. We'll have to make another trip back either this weekend or next. I'm sure you can imagine, I'm not too sad about that!
Up the road a couple of miles, we finally come to our pumpkin farm. It is a little family farm that has been in the current owner's family for generations. She and her husband and children grow so many varieties of pumpkins and gourds, it boggles the mind.
That's her on the right, in the apron: the maiden of the gourd.
There were pumpkins, literally, everywhere!
We spent a lot of time choosing the pumpkins we bought. Everyone got one plain-ish pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern and then we branched out into the decorative and useful ones as well.
I sought the maiden's advice on which variety would be best for pumpkin butter. I plan to try my hand at that this fall. The kids love it in their oatmeal and it is oh-so nutritious. Stay tuned for that wild ride.
As they day came to an end, we packed everything in and headed home.
Now, to get them arranged and, later, carved -- it's been raining since just about the moment we arrived back home!
P.S. Anyone who has read this far deserves a treat. Go here to carve your own virtual pumpkin -- and you can make and print the stencil so you can bring it to life. (Those of you in lands devoid of Halloween festivities . . . you know you've always wanted to make a jack-o-lantern. G'won!)