Question: What do you get when you take a family trip to the pumpkin patch on a sunny and muggy 88-degree day?
No, we weren’t in Hawaii visiting my parents. (F.Y.I. There is only one pumpkin patch in the entire state of Hawaii and it’s not located on the island my parents reside.) We were picking pumpkins in Wisconsin. You know, the place where temps this time of year hover around 50 degrees. It was a record breaking warm day and a picking adventure I won’t soon forget. (Sound familiar?)
Rather than regal you with a litany of anecdotes about our picking trip I’ve decided to provide some helpful tips we learned the hard way. (I’m all for learning from other people’s mistakes.)
Tip #1—–Expect the Unexpected. Imagine my delight when I heard the weather was going to be sunny and warm on the day we planned to drive out to our local pumpkin patch. Last year it was windy and about 55 degrees when we went searching for the perfect pumpkin. This year my daughter wore shorts, a t-shirt and a hat (unbelievable for an October day in Wisconsin). I’m a big fan of the Weather Channel, but in our case there was not a single meteorologist who correctly predicted that we would surpass the 80-degree mark. It was 88 blazing degrees by the time we jumped off the tractor and into the pumpkin patch. The pumpkins were beyond sweaty they were baking out in the fields. And so was my little pumpkin. My daughter was dripping with sweat and chugged the 12-ounce bottle of water I packed in less than 12 seconds. Mistake #1—-Not packing enough water. Mistake #2–Trying to logically explain my oversight to my 3-year-old and spending 10 minutes engaging in discourse as to why the farmer didn’t have a water fountain in the middle of the pumpkin patch.
Tip #2—Don’t Forget the Wipes. You’d think I would have thought to grab the Wet Ones from the car, but I figured that we would have enough to carry with the pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn so I left them behind. Mistake #3. My daughter was ecstatic when the tractor pulled over to our picking section. Her enthusiasm only escalated when she was told that she could pick not one, but 2 pumpkins and 2 gourds. In her rush to get her chubby hands on her first perfectly plump pumpkin she tripped on the wiry tangle of green vines that sustained her precious prize. She ended up face planting in the field’s dirt and sand mixture. On any other day we could have easily brushed her off and sent her on her way. Unfortunately, the sweat and tears that saturated her body acted like glue and the dirt (more so the sand) adhered to her skin like cinnamon sugar on a piece of buttered toast. I made do with a few pieces of tissues generously provided to me by someone’s grandma who witnessed the entire ordeal.
Tip #3—Bring A Pillowcase. Forget about the plastic bags and wagons. They are of little use. Most kids are more tired than the pumpkins after a day of picking so don’t count on there being space for both in the wagon. And, as for those plastic bags that most farms provide as you head out to the fields, they usually are no good if you plan to pick a pumpkin that weighs more than a pound. Instead, bring a couple of old pillowcases. Not only are they sturdy enough to accommodate a good sized pumpkin, they also swing nicely over your shoulder, which frees up your other hand to pull the wagon carrying your tired tot.
Tip #4—Inquire About Pumpkin Pricing. Last year we went to a pumpkin patch that priced their pumpkins according to size. They rigged up a wooden structure with three circles. The size circle your pumpkin fit in determined the price you paid. The smallest one was $4 and the largest $8. I didn’t think the prices were unreasonable until we got to Cuff’s. Cuff’s Farms, located in Hortonville, Wisconsin, features what I consider a very creative pricing structure. Each person (regardless of age) pays $5.50 for a tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch and is allowed to pick two mini pumpkins, two gourds, two Indian corn, and one pumpkin of any size. That means you can pick a pumpkin that would run you about $8 at the other patch we visited plus you also get 2 gourds, 2 ears of Indian corn and 2 mini pumpkins. The down side to this is if you have a family of four then you are essentially paying $22 for 4 pumpkins, 8 mini pumpkins, 8 gourds, and 8 ears of Indian corn. Which may not be ideal for a family who came to the patch looking to pick a single pumpkin.