Monday, November 8, 2010

Don’t Let Autumn Fall Away Without Seeing What it Has to Offer

When Thoreau went to the woods he experienced what he would later describe as the “autumnal tints” of fall in New England. Thoreau was empowered by the painted leaves of the forest and the “earnest touch of autumn’s wand” so much so that he described in great detail how invigorating and enriching his experience was. Today the greater Boston area has become an urbanized jungle of concrete and steel that makes it difficult to see and feel autumn as Thoreau had. Yet there are still a few places close by that can help put us back in touch with New England’s rural roots and allow us to breath, smell, and see the richness of fall’s harvest.

A great place to see the blazing colors of fall would be to travel to one of the many state parks that Massachusetts has to offer. State parks are a nice way to take in the various hues of fall as you walk or hike. Not really interested in trampling through trails of fallen leaves and looking for something a little more activity orientated? Then you might want to visit one or even a few of Massachusetts’ small farms. Yes, scattered amongst the suburban and city landscapes there are still some farms in the state. These farms allow you to escape the cluttered and mundane backdrop of urbanization giving you a taste of the New England countryside.

Nessralla Farm located in Halifax, Ma, offers a variety of fall orientated activities every weekend from September 10th through October 31st. This year is the farm’s 3rd Annual Corn Maze Fall Festival. The biggest highlight of the farm is its vast cornfield that has been converted into a maze intricately designed to look like a jack-o’-lantern (previous maze designs have been a castle and a farming tractor). The maze is difficult to traverse even with an in hand copy of an aerial photo map. On the reverse side of the map is a phone number in case maze-goers get lost in the elaborate design which takes between 45-60 minutes to conquer. Admission to the maze is a little pricey costing $8 for adults and $6 for children but it is a truly unique experience. The festival also offers many activities for children such as pony rides, a petting zoo, and boys and girl’s themed moon-walks. A nice aspect that is both free and fun is the climbable haystack pyramids made from huge bales of hay that make for some great fall photographs amidst the backdrop of fall’s colorings. The farm also offers hayrides that take you around the corn maze. Well traveling on the outside of the maze you can hear the sounds of laughter and the reckoning calls of the lost from within. The hayride takes you through fields where workers carry burlap sacks and baskets harvesting lima beans and wax beans that can be purchased at the farm stand. Also available are decorative chrysanthemums, corn stalks, pumpkins, hay bales, gourds, as well as a small variety of farm raised vegetables. A downside to the farm is its overall aesthetic appearance. Littered throughout some areas are old tractors and broken farming equipment that have been left to decay in plain view. Also the hay ride drives directly past the farm’s compost pile that is saturated with chicken and goat feces that are both unpleasant to see and to smell. Nessralla Farm might want to consider a small detour there.

Located just 4.4 miles from Nessralla Farms and nestled in the woods of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts is C.N. Smith Farm. C.N. Smith’s 20 acre farm is more manicured than its close neighbor and offers their own fall festival: the Harvest Hoedown. Each year on Columbus Day weekend the farm turns into an outdoor party with lives bands, moonwalks, and carnival games to celebrate autumn. Throughout the rest of the season visitors can enjoy apple and pumpkin picking, visit the petting zoo with chickens, ducks, goats, turkeys, and lambs. The farm also produces its own apple cider and periodically gives visitors a tour of their cider mill. To celebrate Halloween the farm offers “Not Too Creepy” hayrides during the day for small children. This ride takes parents and their children past scarecrows, bats, and friendly ghosts and witches. At night things get a bit spookier during their “Hallo Lantern” hayride which features hundreds of intricately carved jack-o’-lanterns and creepy decorations. The ride lasts for 20-30 minutes and costs $14 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under. C.N. Smith’s barn-like farm stand offers a wide array of fruits, vegetables, pumpkins (that you don’t have to pick), gourds, sweets such a candy apples and flavored honey sticks, decorative items, plus their own preserves and jams. What also makes the farm stand a place that you must visit is their Halloween display that features a spooky train and an impressive collection of motion and sound activated decorations such as flying bats, bubbling cauldrons, and screeching skeletons. The farm stand is open from March through December. What C.N. Smith farm offers most is the chance to get outdoors in the crisp, cool fall air and experience a number of fall and Halloween activities that can be fun for all ages.

If you might be looking for something more simple or you are trying to avoid the gimmicky fall festivals then you can visit Nitilia Farm in Holbrook, Massachusetts. Nihtilia is much smaller than Nessralla Farm and C.N. Smith Farm and is essentially just a pumpkin patch that is not frittered away by detail. As Thoreau might say, Nihtilia offers: “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” They provide you with a wagon, gloves, and a plastic knife. Visitors walk through a bumpy three acre field to search for the perfect pumpkin with wagon in tow. Upon selection you must cut your pumpkin from the vine, load it in your wagon and wheel it through the field to be weighed. What makes this place unique is that you really get to pick your own pumpkin. What you often see at many other farms is the “pick-you-own pumpkin” illusion that usually amounts to you hopping on a hayride and picking your pumpkin from a massive pre-harvested pile at the edge of a field. Nihtila allows you and your children the opportunity to selectively choose and harvest your own pumpkins. The small farm also offers a 5-10 minute hayride around the premises and free apples to snack on as you take the ride or walk the field. The farm also sells mums, bales of hay, cornstalks, gourds, Indian corn, and sugar pumpkins. Nihtilia also has a half dozen bright and elaborately colored pheasants that the family raises. The farm is open from 11:00 until dark on Saturdays and Sundays from September 17th until the end of October.

So, if you are looking to escape suburbia or the urbane and want to get outdoors these are only a few of the many places that you can go to experience the blazing colors and enlivening activities of autumn. Why not get out and witness the magical sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of fall and let them become your own invigorating experience?

C.N. Smith Farm is located at 325 South Street, East Bridgewater, Ma. Pick-your-own fruits and vegetables differ by season and harvest times vary. It is best to call ahead. They are open 7 days a week with “pick-your-own” hayrides available only on weekends. The “Not Too Creepy” and “Hallo Lantern” hayrides are available only the last two weekends of October. The farm can be found on the web at: www.cnsmithfarminc.com or reached by telephone at: (508)378-2270.

Nessralla Farm is located at 139 Hemlock Lane, Halifax, Ma. The Corn Maze Festival is open weekends from 10:00 A.M. – 7 P.M through October. They can be found on the web at www.nessrallafarm.com or by telephone at: (781)985-3946.

Nihtilia Farm is located at 12 Nihtilia Lane, Holbrook, Ma. “Pick-your-own Pumpkin” is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11:00 A.M. until dark through October. The farm can be found on the web at: www.nihtilafarm.com or reached by phone at (781)767-0213.

A list of Massachusetts state parks can be found at: www.mass.gov/dcr/listing.htm

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