Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Patch

Gold, scarlet, and orange leaves and grasses, blue skies muted by just a hint of autumnal gold, air crisped by a gentle breeze, and burnished milo fields.  What more could anyone ask for on an October weekend?  Not much, unless you want to toss in a cornfield maze, a pumpkin patch full of traditional pumpkins, Cinderella pumpkins, and some odd gray - blue pumpkins, a toasty wood fire designed for roasting marshmallows and peanuts, and hayrack rides. 

From the time our girls were toddlers until they were pre-teens, we looked forward every fall to our annual trip or two or three to Love’s pumpkin patch up on the Saline River.  Weeks before it opened, the girls would gleefully ask, “Can we get our pumpkin yet?”

“Not yet; they are still turning orange,” I would tell them.

It wasn’t just the chance to pick out the perfect pumpkin; it was also the joy of riding to the field on a flat-bed trailer pulled by two huge draft horses. Every child and grownup, for that matter, grinned broadly as the wagon slowly rolled down the lane.

The year Love’s quit their pumpkin patch was a sad one for our family, one which was bemoaned every autumn thereafter.  Until this year, that is.

My eldest daughter and I anticipate the evening news with an enthusiasm that astounds other family members.  Imagine our joy when the news noted several area farmers planned pumpkin patches this year. 

Our joy multiplied when the day we planned to begin visiting the local patches dawned crisp, bright, and fully dressed in every possible shade of gold, russet, and scarlet. Eagerly, we called a close friend and asked her to join our expedition.  The more the merrier, we thought.

This particular patch required a bit of meandering through the countryside, an added bonus.  We feasted our eyes on picture perfect milo fields and multi-colored foliage.

As an added bonus, I discovered old-fashioned telephone poles, aged and decrepit, lining these unfamiliar rural roads.  I had never seen the short kind that have two little insulator holders on each side of the pole.  (Yes, daughter, they were before my time.)

Milkweed pods had burst, and fluffy clouds of down punctuated the ditches we passed.  In addition, I noted an unfamiliar plant sporting thick, red stalks, a leaf that looked worse for the recent frost, and clusters of berries hanging everywhere.  At first, I thought I had found wild grape heaven, but this was something else entirely--pokeweed.

Once we reached the patch, we saw people of all sizes wandering about the field looking for their great pumpkin.  Small children squealed with delight as they tried to lift pumpkins their little arms could not possibly surround.  Older peopled chuckled at the small fry and at their own memories. 

This particular patch had a cornfield maze which challenged our group.  Actually, we were a bit tall or the corn was a bit short for it to be a real threat, but the maze designer had added the challenge of a scavenger hunt to the intertwining lanes and dead ends .  We liked finding the little treasures and trinkets as much as any of the little people dashing through the maze.  The real thrill came when we flushed a rooster pheasant from his hiding place.  I don’t know who was more frightened, me or the bird.

After the maze, a trip through the Haunted Forest built a raging thirst, so we headed for the concession stand, which hawked standard autumn fare: spiced cider, apple fritters, caramel corn, s’mores, and roasted peanuts.

 A wonderful fire pit, ringed with native stone, caught our attention. We watched children roasting marshmallows for their very first time, which they then turned into their first ever s’more. I could feel their enjoyment. In my case, I had never eaten peanuts roasted over an open fire, so I ordered those.  The attendant told me roasting them brought out the flavor, and she was right.

I think the ambience of the day, the joy of children’s laughter, and  time spent with my daughter and a good friend  added the extra seasoning to make those peanuts so tasty.

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