Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

Providence Steel Yard Iron Pour

A giant jack-o-lantern blazes at the Steel Yard's Annual Iron Pour.

Sometimes I wonder how Geoff hears about these things.  With little prior warning or details, we drove out the other night to The Steel Yard to witness their annual Iron Pour.  We arrived a bit after the ‘performance’ had begun, and there was already a significant crowd (of taller people) blocking the view to the action.  We literally couldn’t see anything.  We imagined something fascinating happening since every so often we would hear a collective ahh and see sparks fly out from the center of The Steel Yard.

Madeline happily viewed the show from Geoff’s shoulders.  However, I was most definitely not happy.  All I could see was the backs of people’s heads, and smoke from the fires our blew into our faces.  Upon complaining loudly, a neighboring observer (if you could call him that since he couldn’t see anything either) told us that the crowd had doubled from last year.  The bleachers, which were full, had been brought in this morning in anticipation of a larger crowd.  Yet it still struck me as so odd how so many people remained attentively facing the center although they couldn’t see a darn thing.  Not me.  I was ready to go.

Iron Pour

Stoking the fire at the annual Iron Pour.

On our way out, we happened to find less obstructed, if more distant, view of the Iron Pour.  From here we could see the iron workers stoking the fires of the furnaces, and the blazing Jack-O-Lantern.  When they would pour the molten metal, sparks scattered across the yard.  We lingered a bit longer to watch.  Madeline truly loved the display, so much so that she started to protest loudly when we announced we were leaving.  It’s a good thing there was a man making balloon pumpkins — it made the perfect parting gift.

The Steel Yard
Their 5,612 square foot industrial shop is a multi-use venue featuring studios where artists craft ceramics, glass and jewelry, as well as shops for welding, metal working and blacksmithing.  Classes are offered on the premises.
27 Sims Avenue
Providence, RI
http://thesteelyard.org

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Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo.

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo.

I usually take issue with things named spectacular, but I have to admit in the case of the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, the name fits.  The sheer number of pumpkins sacrificed to the cause of creating this glowing presentation is extraordinary.  You’ll pass hundreds of hand-carved unique faces along the winding path and see the hundreds more lit lanterns shimmering in the trees and across the ponds.

Each evening it starts at 6pm, although sunset comes a bit later.  We arrived at 5:30pm, waited in line, bought our tickets, then meandered near the entrance buying pretzels and drinking coffee.  What we didn’t realize is that there is another queue within the zoo for people to wait until it’s dark enough outside, and there’s plenty of stands (and time) while you’re on that line to buy SuperPretzels (not as deserving of their name).  Despite the line’s seeming to contain the entire population of Rhode Island, once dark descended, it moved fairly well.  And the fiery tribute to one of the prettier traditions of Halloween is truly worth the wait.

Roger Williams Park Zoo
Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular (october 8-November 1, 2009)
Providence, RI
www.rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org/jols/index.cfm

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Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.

Over the weekend, we spent a day with our family at Schartner Farms in Exeter, RI.  The farm stand alone is an impressive sight– in autumn, they sell over a dozen crops grown on their 85 acres — beets, apples, peppers, carrots, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, string beans, potatoes and of course, pumpkins.  They also offer fruits, vegetables and flowers from other farms so you can pick up staples like lemons when you need them. From their on-site bakery wafts the smell of their pumpkin, apple, and berry pies which are obviously quite popular judging by the volume they churned out last Sunday.

Heading into the corn maze on Schartner Farms.

Heading into the corn maze on Schartner Farms.

The family fun begins with a hay ride which winds you deeper into the farm along dirt roads.  It drops you off at the ‘pumpkin patch’ where you find an assortment of activities for the kids.  Madeline enjoyed the waist-high mini-maze, but gave up quickly on the the larger corn maze which I continued on alone.  Their maze is based on a quiz  — this year’s theme was insects so the questions centered on the peculiarities of mosquitos, dragonflies, cockroaches and more.  For example, how long can a cockroach survive without it’s head?  The right answer leads you to the correct path.  Let’s just say it took me a little while to get out of there — I apparently don’t know much about insects.

They also have a number of photo ops in addition to their pumpkin patch like their enormous funky scarecrows, Halloween-themed pictures to poke your head through and some larger-than-life cartoonish bugs.  You’ll also find a handful of carnival-like games (guess the number, ball toss).

After you’re done, you take the slightly bumpier hay ride back to the farm entrance and by then you’re certainly ready for a snack (or at least we were).  No need to leave, you can get hot dogs, their custom soft drinks and tasty french fries made on the spot with their own fresh farm potatoes.  For dessert, pick up a slice of one of their pies (we preferred the crispy apple pie to the pumpkin).

French fries freshly made from farm potatoes.

French fries freshly made from farm potatoes.

On your way out, you can pick up a pumpkin (if you hadn’t already at the pumpkin patch).  At their stand, they have all shapes and sizes — tiny ironsides to ones large enough to need two hands and your full attention to carry.  They even have a collection of decorated and painted pumpkins which come with names like “Grumpy Dave” and “Scary Mary.”

Shartner Farms
Route 2 and 1 Arnold Place
Exeter, RI
http://www.farmfresh.org/food/farm.php?farm=11

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Long Live the Farm

Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI

Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI

The Providence Journal recently reported the growth of RI farms (Number of RI farms is growing). It’s promising to think that while the RI unemployment climbs and local employers and governments make cutbacks, that at least local farms might be flourishing.

The Census of Agriculture, Rhode Island saw a sharp increase (the highest in New England and likely the U.S.) in the number of farms and total land in farms. The 2007 data found 1,219 Rhode Island farms compared with 858 in 2002. However, since the Census is only done every five years, we won’t know how the farms weathered the worst of the recession (not to mention the rain) until 2014 (when the 2007-2012 data would be released).

So, take a look at the impressive list of 2,040 farms listed on Farm Fresh Rhode Island and support as many as you can. I’m doing my part, but there’s only so much I can eat.

Highlights from the Census:

  • The number of RI farms was 1,219, up 42 percent from 2002.
  • Land in farms totaled 67,819, up 11 percent from 2002.
  • Market value of production totaled $65.9 million, up 19 percent from 2002.
  • Direct market sales totaled $6.292 million, up from $3.697 million in 2002. 249 farms (20 percent) reported direct market sales.
  • Organic value of sales totaled $1.2 million, up from $270,000 in 2002.
  • Agritourism income totaled $689,000 on 43 farms, up from $23,000 and six (6) farms in 2002.

Learn More:
Farm Fresh RI: Local food guide, farmers’ markets
Get Fresh Buy Local: Government campaign to foster local food
Census of Agriculture Report

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Picking Berries at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI.

Picking Berries at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI.

There are so many reasons to love Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI.  In the fall they have pick-your-own apples and pumpkins (they make the best pumpkin muffins on the planet — perhaps, the universe).  Also, their farm stand stays open from mid-April through the end of December, which extends the ‘market’ season by several months.  Even better, their farm stand doubles as a quaint grocery store that carries mostly local products — you can buy the Sweet Berry Farm jams, honeys and pastries, but you can also buy milk, eggs, cheese, and pasta.  They even make their own frozen gourmet dinners.  The farm also has a little café (indoors and outdoors) where you can sit and enjoy some of their  muffins, soups, sandwiches and salads.

On their 100 acre farm, they grow vegetables (beets, carrots, corn, salad greens, squash, etc.), fruits (apples, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, etc.), flowers, and trees.  Their extensive pick-your-own schedule  begins with strawberries in early June and ends in December with Christmas trees.  (They allow you to tag your tree months in advance, but if you’re like us, it also works to pick one of the unclaimed orphan trees around December 20).

Today, Madeline and I went to pick our own — peaches (firm but tasty), blackberries (beautiful but tart) and the last of the raspberries (perfectly sweet).

Pick-your-own peaches at Sweet Berry Farm

Pick-your-own peaches at Sweet Berry Farm

Here’s the picking schedule, in case you want to try for yourself…

Strawberries: Early June through early July
Summer Raspberries: July through mid-August
Fall Raspberries: Late August through September
Blueberries: Mid-July through August
Peaches: Late July through early October
Blackberries: Early August through September
Apples: September through early October
Pumpkins: Late September through October
Christmas Trees: Tagging starts in October

Sweet Berry Farm
915 Mitchell’s Lane
Middletown, Rhode Island
www.sweetberryfarmri.com

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Simmons Farm Petting Zoo

Simmons Farm Petting Zoo

Simmons Farm — what a sweet little stop along the side of Route 114 in Middletown, RI.   Not only do they have a farm stand with the best corn on Aquidneck Island (which we refer to as ‘crack corn’ for its addictive properties), but they also have a petting zoo. For 25 cents, you can purchase some grains to hand-feed the goats, llama, lambs, and horses. Forget feeding the pig, who will inevitably be too fatigued to bother with you.

Simmons Farm
1942 West Main Road
Middletown, RI
www.simmonsorganicfarmri.com/petting-zoo/

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