Since we were squeezing in our visit to Harvest Weekends between two other activities today, we decided to skip the large amount of activities that are offered at Farmpark on a daily basis. However, for those of you who have yet to explore Farmpark here is a quick overview of activities that may be offered during your visit during both a harvest and a non-harvest weekend: cheese processing, hand milking, machine milking, horse demos, horse grooming, animal encounters, antique tractors & farm equipment.
We headed straight to the special harvest weekend activities at the top of the hill. Since there was a heavy wintry mix coming down, we opted to hop on an enclosed wagon pulled by a tractor instead of walking up to the field. Our first stop was the Machinery Building.There were several activities available in the Machinery Building. The first was the apple cider press. Each kid picked an apple from the crate and turned the press in order to make cider. The kids were surprised about the amount of muscle it took to press the apples. After pressing, each kid sampled some cider. There was also apple and apple butter sampling in the building. Today there were four different apple varieties to sample: Honeygold, Cortland, Macoun, and Cardinal. After sampling each variety, our family’s favorite was the Honeygold. On our previous visits to Harvest Weekends, they were cooking apple butter outdoors in a large copper pot over an open fire. Today (perhaps because of the weather – did I mention it was snowy), they had apple butter samples in a slow cooker. We all agreed that the apple butter was a bit sour today, but I don’t remember it being sour on past visits. From the Machinery Building it was a short walk to the Festival Field. On our way, a new experience caught our eyes. None of us remember seeing tractor pulled barrel rides on our past visits. Since there was no wait, we jumped on board. The barrel rides made a quick tour around the upper portion of the Farmpark. The driver made the ride extra fun by weaving from side to side along the path. We passed by the small haunted house that is fully operational during their haunted hayrides and several great photo op areas. You could walk through the unmanned haunted house if you wished. We have done so in the past, and it is a fun intro to haunted houses in the daylight without any people in costume to frighten you. After our ride, we walked to the field crop activity area for some pumpkin soup. This soup is made over an open fire, and it is not to be missed. I have tried to recreate this soup several times at home. Even though they provide the recipe, it never tastes quite the same. This year, they suggested cooking it in the slow cooker. I took a copy of the recipe, and will give it one more try this year using my slow cooker – fingers crossed!
Next we headed under the tent for some hand grain grinding. The kids tried their hands at grinding both wheat and corn. In addition they tried, corn shelling which separates the kernels of corn from the cob.
Under the tent there was also pumpkin painting. For a small additional fee, kids pick a small pumpkin from the field. Then they rinse the pumpkin in a large metal wash tub and dry it prior to painting. Only my youngest chose to paint a pumpkin today, and I am happy to report that their paints are very washable! Although corn husk doll making was on the schedule, we did not locate anyone making the dolls much to my oldest’s dismay.
The highlight of every trip to Harvest Weekends is plowing. This isn’t watching some large piece of noisy farm machinery plow a field. It is walking behind a plow pulled by two beautiful draft horses named Fred and Jim. My kids absolutely love this unique experience and enjoy seeing the field they helped plow.Down the other side of the hill is a 3-acre corn maze. The maze is set up with trivia questions to help guide your way. A correct answer points you down the most direct path. Outside the entrance/exit of the maze is a great wooden playset, and on the way down the hill towards the maze are several corn hole tosses. Unfortunately, today the outdoor food vendors were not open. In the past, we have loved the donuts at the food truck. I am not sure if the were closed due to the weather or if they now only open during the haunted hayrides. However, J & J Cafe was open for meals and snacks. If you don’t want to brave the elements or have little ones who want to be more independent yet you want to keep an eye on them, there is a great hay maze contained under a tent. This maze is constructed out of bales of hay and is fun for even older children to climb. Although it was a quick trip, we were able to cover a lot of ground in a short time since we already knew our favorite Harvest Weekend activities. We can’t wait to return to Lake Metroparks Farmpark for Country Lights in a few months!