By Mary Ellen Christy
October is a favorite month for Midwesterners. After a long hot summer, schools are back in session, there is a crispness in the air and the leave begin to change color and flutter to the ground. A popular activity with children and adults is an October visit to a pumpkin patch, and apple orchard or a farm stand. Within a two-hour drive of the metropolitan area there are numerous choices but my three favorites are County Line Orchard in Hobart Indiana, Pearce’s farm stand in Walworth, Wisconsin and Edward’s Apple Orchard in Poplar Grove, Illinois. There are some commonalities among the three such as fantastic pumpkins and homemade apple cider donuts. but Each has its own distinctive qualities.
County Line Road farms has an enormous barn filled with pumpkins of every size and description, apples, a corn maze a petting zoo a gift shop. Rides and daily attractions. On Saturdays there Is an appearance by Pumpkin Peter the Dino. This orchard charges admission but coupons are available in the internet.
Edward’s Apple Orchard in Poplar Gove is a delight. The staff is pleasant, and the apples are simply delicious. They are especially known for their honey crisp apples. There is an admission charge of $45.00 per car for from 1-6 people. A basket of apples is $3.00. In addition to apples this family owned business founded i8n 1960 also has a gift shop which offers sweater, mittens, Christmas and Halloween decorations and a small restaurant which serves among other treats homemade apple pie, made from Edwards apples and topped with homemade delicious vanilla ice cream. It is worth the drive.
I have saved the best for last. Pearce’s Farm stand, operated by octogenarian farmers Bob and Mary Ann Pearce who are legendary throughout Walworth County and serves the Lake Geneva, William’s Bay and Lake Delavan areas. All the produce grown here is organic and locally grown. Organic and delicious. They are especially known for their sweet bi-color corn which always takes a blue ribbon at the Walworth County Fair and is picked daily. What you put on your table each evening was picked that same day which makes a tremendous difference in the taste if the corn. There is no admission to the Farm stand including the corn maze shown in Arial view. In the nearly forty years that I have been shopping at Pearce’s it has grown from a couple of large carts under an open sided shed to multiple buildings. They offer in addition to produce, fresh cheeses, home baked goods, kettle corn, and a variety of home canned jams, jellies, pickles, mustard and sauces. This past summer they offered for the first time a farm to table dinner. Many weekends they offer live music.
A few weeks ago a private club in the city sponsored a swim with the pumpkins party, The threw 75 carefully scrubbed pumpkins into the pool and children swam around the bobbing pumpkins and selected the one they wanted. Of course, there was a lot of splashing and tossing of pumpkins and the pool was also well populated by adults who appeared to be having as much fun if not more than the children. Once a pumpkin was selected, the children had the option of carving their pumpkin or painting it and decorating it with stickers. Apple cider, coffee. Cinnamon doughnut holes and a delicious cheese board was shared by all. A clever and very fun idea which I hope will be replicated. It appeared to have offered motivation to more than one reluctant swimmer.
Of course, the highlight of October is Halloween a holiday which has grown so exponentially that it rivals Christmas. Adults and children enjoy selecting a costume. I have been a spider web for many years so I have that one down pat but it is not unusual for children to change their minds several times and some smaller children will decide that they don’t want to wear a costume after all. This is normal and needs to be respected. Trick or treating is still popular but requires adult supervision and careful inspection of all candy. If you don’t want your children having all that candy you can make some fun treats for a family dinner party at home. You might prepare your favorite soup, stew or chili and then bake it in a well cleaned pumpkin shell and serve it table side with a large ladle and sitting on a platter with dry ice.
For dessert you might try making the banana ghosts and clementine pumpkins with celery stems pictured here. For an easy sweet desert you might make peanut butter kiss cookies because the addition of a Hersey’s kiss, makes the cookies look like witches hats. It is easy to decorate the table with some packaged spider webs and dark candles. If you look around the house like I did you can find some household items that can be re-purposed to create a spooky table scape. Nestled among twigs, small pumpkins, acorns and votive candles, the smallest members of your family can decorate the table. A child sized skeleton apron which is also available in adult sizes and the skeleton glows in the dark. These can be purchased at Williams Sonoma and worn over all black clothing you can look like a gathering of skeleton’s sitting down to a truly spooky meal. Enjoy !