Even way out here, in the middle of nowhere (or the middle of everywhere-as I like to say), there are several destination orchards/berry/squash patches. Even holiday tree farms with holiday villages and activities attached. Families that have brought their generations together to pool resources, manpower, and land to create a cottage industry that becomes a tourist spot for the growing season. They start with berries in the spring, farmers market produce in the summer months, and then shift to apples, raspberries, squash and corn mazes in the fall. November-April are reserved for planning, maintenance, and expansion.
They all start small and add on experimentally as they years go by, and as finances allow. They tweak what they do to fill a niche in the market and to best fit their skills and ability. I have been to 8 such places within a two hour drive of the house. They range from quaint to almost a theme park.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I was on my own this year for apple picking season. Over the years I have found my favorite spot for picking (until our own orchard is large enough to produce what I need), and have pretty much abandoned the others, being too far or too expensive per pound for the effort. The same is true of squash, or pumpkin picking. While we did used to put a knife to a gourd or two every year when we lived in the city, there really is no need to mutilate a squash for decorative reasons when no one can even see the front porch from the road without bird watching glasses. I do however still purchase pie pumpkins for puree, and larger squash to cut up and freeze (or not) for the flock.
I made a grand adventure on the spur of the moment this year to go to a family patch/market about 2 hours from here. I justified the trip by tacking on a trip to the last KMart in the state. The market was lovely and was filled with not only produce and products, pumpkin and not, but also had locally created art and candles. The outside was meticulously decorated with cream cans, rusty trucks, hay bales, and country decor.
A couple weeks later and I was ready to try again. This time I DID have my buddy with me. The Boy was home on Fall break. We were both itching to get out and see something other than our own hilltop, but we also wanted to go somewhere totally new to us. We opted for a pumpkin patch that we had heard about incessantly every Fall, almost to the point of brainwashing, since we moved to the state. A place started in the 80s by a family that wanted to sell pumpkins when the bottom fell out of the farming market. I asked local people if they had ever been there, and the answer was the same, it was too expensive or "we haven't been for years and years."
|Foam Ball battle barn.|
Well seeing as we didn't take our annual trip the the Moon, and the University was now feeding The Boy, I figured that I could certainly shell out a few dollars to go to a tourist hot spot for the day. An hour later and we were pulling into the parking lot into what I thought was an AWESOME parking space. It turns out these people have taken lessons from Disney World in park planning. We followed traffic into the lot and right there, up front, a car pulled out in front of us, 20 spaces from the entrance. DEAL! We parked the car and started the walk towards the crosswalk through the tree line. Uh HUH. Those of you that have experienced the Disney lines, know what's coming. As we cleared the treeline, hidden from view of the road, and the parking lot, loomed another gigantic parking lot. I mean GIGANTIC! (A later peek at google earth, showed that there are actually 4 more lots, hidden from view for busy days.) This lot was about the size of the inside of a National Football stadium and UPHILL.
After we slogged up this not so gradual hill, we caught a glimpse of the line. It was a Monday, towards the beginning of October, so I figured it wouldn't be busy. 20 minutes later and $24 lighter we walked through the gate. These were discounted tickets as it was a Monday. To be fair, the quality of the buildings, and the cleanliness of the restaurants (yes, PLURAL), food stands, camp grounds, orchards, entertainment areas, and playgrounds were meticulously planned and built. I know I spent the next couple of hours walking around, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other people, with my mouth hanging open in awe.
It had adorable animatronic shows, live shows -including pumpkin chunkin', hay rides, apple picking, a barn where the kids could battle each other with foam ball guns, air guns that shot rotten apples at giant steel targets, Halloween shops, eateries to include a candy shop and turkey legs, a huge children's play area and petting zoo with a train.
We decided that it was a nice one time trip for us, but it would be great if you had little kids OR if you were a high school age kid there for the evening festivities with friends. We agreed that the most clever bit was the giant bins and flower beds filled to overflowing with pumpkins, gourds, and squash of every shape and size for purchase. All arranged at the EXIT, so you can buy it on the way back to the car.
Our only negatives are:
Closed- yes it was a discounted day, but all of the small shops and eateries were closed, which was disappointing.
Food Quality - I'll say it, YUCK. (And like most parks, overpriced) We HAD to eat lunch, so we chose to settle for the open eatery near the entrance - We had two small hot dogs and a bottle of water and a soda, and we were at $12. But it held us over until we stopped at McDs on the way home. We also decided to treat ourselves to a whole pie to take home for the fridge. We picked out a fudge pie at the pie barn. A whole building dedicated to pies and sweets, and it has to be good right? Nope. You know the watery, fake chocolate goo filling in those unrefrigerated hand pies you get for 50 cents? Yup, that. We threw the pie in the trash after one bite. A $20 pie.
Fortunately you CAN take food and water INTO the park and picnic or snack, I now know why.
All in all, we had a good time, albeit pricey. So, if Fall refuses to come to you, go out and find it!
(IF Winter refuses to come to you, celebrate! But I don't think we'll be that lucky.)