Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Homestead Farm

Where: Poolesville, Maryland
When: October 2014

While in college, I spent a fortnight at my aunt's home in Maryland. At the time, I was a New Yorker who only went south to attend school in Pennsylvania. I loved my aunt's home and spending time with my cousin, but had very little hold of the area -- who knew I would be living in the neighboring state of Virginia a few years later!

The time spent at my aunt's during that hot summer hold many memories for me, but one specific memory is of Homestead Farm. It's a favorite of my aunt's and she would have a regular supply of preserves from the farm filling her fridge for breakfasts and snacks. 

Last autumn, I wanted to do something fun with my group of friends. Something autumnal. I wanted to visit Homestead Farm the entirety of the past summer but never got around to it, so I figured I would see if they had anything going on for the fall. Do they ever! 

As a child my mother would take me to pick pumpkins each year and we would ride a hay-covered wagon to a big muddy field where pumpkins were scattered and still on the vine. Upon going to school in Pennsylvania, later on moving there and living in the country, then moving to Virginia, I had yet to find a similar experience. With or without my friends, I was determined to not only visit this farm that I had wonderful memories of, but pick a pumpkin.

But friends were able to tag along so we piled into my car and drove along the beltway and into the rolling hills of Poolesville. The parking was packed into a grassy field and the area was pretty crowded, but the lines moved quickly and the farm certainly has figured out how to deal with the autumnal crowds.

We immediately bought our tickets to the hayride and I was nearly jumping with joy. A hayride, to a field, to pick pumpkins RIGHT OFF THE VINE was something I hadn't done since I was a kid. Now this is how you pick pumpkins. I was ecstatic to teach my "city" friends a thing or two. What was even better was that the hayride wasn't a quick drive around a barn or anything. We actually were taken away from the crowded farm area and into the fields. There were multiple pumpkin fields and it seemed that each hayride took pumpkin-getters to varying fields. This helped maintain a wide selection of pumpkins (by size, shape and quality) but also prevented the fields from getting too destroyed by trampling feet.

After we hopped off the hayride, brushing off sticky hay that clung to our sides, we headed off to look through the wide selection of pumpkins. There were so many! Typically, I spot a pumpkin and I know "that's the one," but the majority of my friends were overwhelmed by the selection, torn between a number of pumpkins set out before them, and we missed our hayride back to the farm.

Not to worry! Other hayrides came through after a little bit and it wasn't so far that we couldn't walk back if we were really desperate to return beforehand. It was pretty wonderful being able to go through the fields alone, just the group of us, and take our time as we selected the perfect pumpkin. I appreciate that we weren't ushered back to the tractor when we weren't finished.

With the precious cargo on our laps, we headed back to the farm with the warm autumn sun on our faces. We checked out shortly after and brought our pumpkins to the car, nestled safely in my trunk, before returning to the farm to enjoy all the other options they had. Food, a market, little goats, a large lake to sit about, piles of hay for children to climb on, and an apple orchard to pick your own pink lady apples.

The food -- hot dogs, pie, cider -- while simple, was delicious. I think in part it was the atmosphere. You're sitting outside, eating a warm, freshly cooked hot dog while children laugh and the warm breeze catches your hair. The cider was absolutely delicious and we ended up buying two gallons of the stuff. It was the perfect autumnal day.

Afterward, we checked out the animals at their little homes and sat by the lake for awhile. It was beautiful and peaceful, despite how busy it was, but the day was starting to draw to a close. We spent a great deal of time relaxing by the lake and looking at the blue-blue sky with the occasional plane flying by.

One of our friends suggested we give apple picking a try and all were in. Despite my experiences with pumpkin picking, apple picking was something I had never truly experienced. In the Catskills, there were plenty of apple trees. In my neighborhood alone we had a number of them around my home. Rumor was that it was formerly a apple farm before the land was bought out for homes. I associate apple blossoms with spring and the thunk of small apples with the fall. But to pick apples off trees that are actually large enough to eat? Nope, never have done that before.

Pink lady apples were our choice for the time that we were there. Rows and rows of apple trees were passed by in pursuit of the pink ladies. Apparently, different apples are ripened enough for plucking at different points through out the fall. The farm has them in orderly lines trailing back further from the farm and we were, more or less, at the midway point.

The trees generally were short enough to reach up and grab apples without issue, but some people were able to snag ladders or poles to get the apples that were closer to the top and a bit more out of reach. We ended up getting far more apples than we intended but ultimately ended up eating and baking with those apples for weeks afterward.

Leaving the farm that day, I was tired but incredibly satisfied. It was a blast from the past, both a visit to a farm I had always loved when visiting my aunt, and a reminder of how fun pumpkin picking can be. While I'll be spending Halloween in New Orleans this year, I still intend to go back to this farm and enjoy the festive activities of my favorite season.

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