Sunday, October 12, 2008
in search of the great pumpkin
Fall in Minnesota can be glorious! The colors of the trees are so warm and beautiful - reds, yellows, oranges - like a postcard or LLBean catalogue ad. The weather is often crisp, yet sunny - sweater weather. Yesterday was one of those glorious days - it was a day when people smiled at strangers knowingly, as if to say, "This is why we live in Minnesota."
Daddyman, the Littles and I decided early in the day to spend the whole day together as a family - as much time as we could squeeze in between sun up and bedtime! We simply had no other choice. These sunny, happy Saturday's in Minnesota don't last long and this day was glorious!
It was a 'pumpkining' day.
So, we filled water bottles and topped of the gas tank in the Odyssey, and set off on a voyage of epic proportions: to locate, secure and return home with the biggest, best pumpkin in the patch.
Apparently, we were not the only people in Minnesota that realized that these sunny, happy days are few and far between, and therefore, we should spend every single minute of them outside, enjoying the photo opportunities that present themselves on days like this.
It was an EPIC day at the apple orchard/pumpkin patch. There was a 10 minute line to get into the parking lot!
Upon securing an adequate parking spot in the vast field of similar suburban gold minivans, Daddyman and I smiled at each other warily, and trudged forward. We reminded each other that we had all day. It's about being together, not about getting somewhere... blah blah blah.
We paid our entrance fee, and followed the vast stream of Minnesotan 'stay-cationers' into the picture perfect orchard. Of course, we sampled apples and self-pick raspberries. We devoured hand-dipped caramel apples. We fed the sheep, the goats, the llamas, the goats, the llamas and the sheep, each time sanitizing our hands with 'magic soap' so we didn't spread colds between our furry, four-legged friends (according to Yaya, llamas don't do so well with colds. I mean, c'mon. They already have a problem with spitting. And a sore throat in that neck would be a bum-mer!)
Then, we hopped onto the hay wagon and bumped our way through the orchard. Every couple of rows, the seed-capped tractor driver would shout out the name of the closest variety of apples: "Harralson! Honey Gold." And then, he'd wait for someone to stir from their straw perch to indicate that THESE were the apples they were going to stuff into the plastic bag that had been so thoughtfully provided to every patron upon entrance at the orchard gate!
We were not tempted by the siren's call of fresh, crisp apples. We held firm, and waited. Then, after the third turn around the orchard, we saw them. The pumpkins, beautiful orange amidst the dark earth and the drying vines. Our pumpkins were in that field. Somewhere.
Then, the call came from the tractor driver: "Red Delicious. Pumpkins."
We unfolded ourselves from the bales of hay, and headed into the gloriousness that is pumpkinville!
We have only one rule for pumpkining: you may pick any pumpkin that you heart desires, but you have to be able to carry it back to the car ALL BY YOURSELF. No rolling of pumpkins is allowed, they must be carried in your hands!
This seems like a remarkably simple rule, but it is one that promotes great care and study of each and every pumpkin in the pumpkin patch. Each pumpkin is turned and touched and examined and evaluated for shape and texture ("I might want to paint it instead of carving it, you know!"). Finally, if the pumpkin in question has passed these grueling tests, it is picked up and the weight is judged by each child. "Can I carry this ALL the way back to the car?"
After almost 45 minutes in the pumpkin patch, each child and each adult carefully choosing their very own pumpkin, we were ready to return to the main gate where we would weigh our pumpkins, pay for our pumpkins, beg & whine for a homemade apple doughnut, and take our bounty home, safely secured in our laps.
Dirty and tired, we waited at the 'hay wagon transit' spot with all of the other tired 'stay-cationers,' carefully protecting our orange orbs from the swinging feet of nearby toddlers and frisky dogs.
Finally, the hay wagon came. It was full. Really full. Lots and lots of people heading back to the main gate. The tractor driver sighed and waited. No sounds, no apple announcements, he just waited. Like a parent waiting for a toddler to choose their candy at the end of a shopping trip, he waited until the riders figured out that they would have to move over so the rest of the weary pumpkin-eers could shove onto the hay wagon. And they did. And we did.
And then, as we rounded the last corner back to the main gate, it started to rain. Really, really hard. Big, juicy raindrops!
The Littles looked frantically from me to Daddyman and back to me. Daddyman and I looked at each other. We shrugged... What could we do? We had searched and we had found THE pumpkins that were obviously grown just for us! We smiled tentative, reassuring smiles at the Littles, and they sighed a little.
It was at that moment, the moment that we were getting soaked on the hay ride that we saw the line of other pumpkin hunters waiting to weigh their bounty. These people had a lot of pumpkins. I mean, really. Infants had been displaced from their comfortable rides by strollers full of pumpkins! Wailing toddlers had given up their radio flyers to wagons full of big, fat pumpkins! Dads and uncles and grandparents stood in this ridiculously long line with towering stacks of pumpkins to appease the women and children who were crammed into the store, searching for apple butter and pumpkin cookies.
And it was still raining. Really hard.
And the line was still waiting. Barely moving. Waiting to weigh their chosen bounty.
Daddyman and I took one long look at the line - easily 45 minutes to reach the front of the line - and shook our heads. No pumpkin was worth standing in the pouring rain. Oh, fickle Minnesota fall weather!
We set our pumpkins down under the nearest tree and turned to urge our girls to do the same.
Yep. That went over as well as you just imagined.
After we talked Noni down off the ledge, we headed through the mud-strangled parking lot in search of our ark that would float us out of the apple orchard. Noni's face painting (kitty nose and whiskers) was running down her cheeks in muddy rivers as a result of the hot, angry tears she cried all of the way to the car and the cold, pouring rain. Via and Yaya protecting their black cheek spiders with cupped hands and bent heads - following their family by sound and touch alone - never looking up once for fear that this artifact would be stolen from them, too.
Luckily, we found our car in little or no time, and we joined the exodus from the orchard and headed home.
It was a joyful, family-time car ride back into the city.
Noni was sobbing hysterically.
Yaya was whimpering with tired confusion.
Via was just plain pissed off.
And I understood all of it.
What kind of rotten parent would spend all day for NOTHING!?
Luckily, we found a little, tiny pumpkin stand on the side of the road on our way home. We thrust 8 dollars into the honor box, and came home with pumpkins.
Tiny, tiny pumpkins.
And the girls were happy as little clams! They are already making plans for the next sunny fall day in Minnesota - a circus on the lawn or kayaking on the Mississippi!