We work all hard year round to prepare the farm for our big season, September and October. On the farm in September we are concentrating on harvesting winter squash and gourds, starting to prepare the fields for winter, and gearing up for pumpkin season.
September usually has better weather as Summer transitions into Fall. The maze paths are dry and the big sunflowers are at their peak. Even so, October has the force of tradition that keeps people waiting for their farm visits.
This is a bit of a retrospective look back at some of the highlights of September and October at Dr. Maze’s Farm.
In September we prepare for the big Pumpkin Patch season. We start selling the Jack o Lantern pumpkins the last week of September for the early bird Halloween celebrants. Some years I am worried that the pumpkins won’t be orange and ready by opening day, but I had no concerns in 2014. The pumpkins, corn, and sunflowers all responded to the long hot days of July and August by growing quickly and maturing early.
Every year I endeavor to add a new small maze to our collection. New mazes usually appear first inside the big Sunflower-Corn Maze and then move out to the Farmyard in succeeding years. Our new maze for 2014 was the Color Balancing Maze. You solve the maze by moving from one color beam to the next, following the order red, green, yellow. As an added challenge, you can try to complete the maze while walking on the beams. Can you keep your balance while thinking trough the next steps of the maze?
You really know it is Autumn when we bring out the Pumpkin Checkers. We grow a lot of these miniature pumpkins. Many folks add a couple to their Jack o Lantern purchase for table decorations. Many are surprised when I inform them that the flat shaped mini-pumpkins are tasty. Hollow one out, fill with your choice of stuffing, bake it in the oven, and you have a delicious single serving.
I love growing gourds. They come in a host of shapes, textures, and colors. I buy seeds of a half-dozen different variety strains and mixes. I like them all, but others have strong favorites. Some people think the wartier the better, maybe they pick up the classic spoon shape. In addition to the little gourds, we also grow the bigger thick-walled gourds. The thick-walled gourds are easier to dry for crafting. You can successfully dry the little gourds, but they are fragile. They all lose their vibrant color when dried.
It seems these days that all foods imaginable are being pumpkinized. It may have started with pumpkin lattes, but the trend has exploded. Of course few if any of these trendy foods contain any trace of pumpkin, relying instead on the spices and flavorings to convey the pie impression. If you want to undertake the challenge of making your own genuine pumpkin pie from scratch, I grow the pumpkin of choice for making a silky smooth and delicious pumpkin pie. Winter Luxury Pie is an heirloom pumpkin variety. The yield of pumpkins per vine is low to average when compared to modern hybrids, and the pumpkins are soft-skinned and don’t keep as well as others. Even so, it is well worth growing. The flesh is thick and deep orange, sweet and flavorful. Come late summer I usually start getting calls and email from serious pie bakers wanting to check and be sure I grew Winter Luxury again this year.
October is a wild mix of brilliant sunny days and heavy rains, bright orange pumpkins and gloomy skies. A gorgeous Saturday in the middle of October really brings out the crowds to the farm. I tell people that the same pumpkins are out there in the fields on cloudy days, but I am always happy that folks have chosen our farm to visit, whenever they may decide to come.
We open the Pumpkin Patch on the last weekend of September, but the middle of October is prime pumpkin season for our visitors. It always gives me a boost when folks tell me they come to our farm every year for pumpkins and photographs. We refill our main Pumpkin Patch so folks can find all the sizes and colors of Jack o Lanterns in one area. Most folks head straight for the big field of orange.
Other visitors prefer to visit a field where the pumpkins still lie on the ground where they grew. In 2014 we grew pumpkins in the field where before we had always grown the corn maze. The pumpkins did very well, and folks enjoyed the short walk to the big pumpkin field.
This past year we participated in the WSU Extension Compost Trials. They provided a truck load of compost each to a number of local farmers to test in their own fields and growing conditions. I did see an increase in larger-sized pumpkins in the area with added compost. I look forward to working with them next year. This compost is produced from food scraps and yard waste, so your pumpkin may have benefited from your own kitchen scraps!
Our new Pumpkin Wash Station was an instant hit with our pumpkin purchasers. It is pretty simple really; two hand pumps, a support grid, a scrub brush,and a water trough. The water flows through the grid back into the trough, where it is then pumped back over the pumpkin. Properly speaking, I should have labelled it a Pumpkin Rinse Station, since no soap is involved.This is one innovation our visitors have informed me that I must retain next year.
Teresa is our pumpkin decorator for the Farmstand. She will carve a couple of Jack o Lanterns each year, which is always fun, but she also likes to try new ways to decorate the pumpkins. This year she came up with this, using glue, glitter, and felt. Simple, but effective. Plus, the decorated pumpkin lasted for weeks, long after Halloween!
When is the best time to visit the farm? The maze paths are drier in September and the corn and sunflowers are in better conditions. On the other hand, nothing says Fall like a field packed with orange pumpkins on a brilliant October afternoon. It all seems pretty clear to me: you should visit in September and then return again in October. Why should you settle for just one great day at the farm?