Let’s just say, for instance, that you’re in the midst of decluttering and packing up your house of 15 years to move to a new house about half the size. And let’s just say, for instance, that you’re also trying to get your normal jobs done and sneakily trick impress the people who sign your paychecks by making them think you’re organized and responsible and can handle moving and writing a food story about pumpkins-as-ingredients and your weekly newspaper column at the same time. And let’s just say that you’re also trying to do your normal life things and keep up with friends and family and the cat-feeding schedule while you’re rationing boxes and figuring out if you need packing tape or sealing tape. But, despite all that, you still want to write a thoughtful blog post. What do you do? Recycle! Point your readers to other things you recently have written but they may not have seen. They won’t notice it’s second-hand material and they’ll be awed by your juggling skills and entertained by your mindless babbling well-reasoned insights. Not that I would ever do anything like that. I’m just saying.
I got to go to a pumpkin farm for the first time ever this past week — and I loved it! When my now 20-something daughters were little, agri-tourism had not yet made the news and farms were something you wanted to get away from, not pay money to spend an afternoon there. But at 18 months, grandson Capt. Adorable is ready this fall for his first pumpkin experience and I was lucky enough to go along with him and his mom and dad. We visited Tate Farms in Meridianville, Alabama (on the east side of Huntsville) and as soon as we stepped out of the car, the Captain was wriggling with delight. It was like the wide open running spaces, inviting playground equipment, oh-so-cute baby animals and piles of brightly colored pumpkins and gourds had been created just for him. In fact, he was in such constant motion, I had a hard time getting photos — he hasn’t quite grasped the notion of photo ops yet. At the Pumpkin Shack that was set up for proud-parent and -grandparent photos, he was more interested in dismantling the rows of pumpkins than in posing for the camera. But Grandma snapped away, anyway! Find out more about Tate Farms at http://www.tatefarmspumpkins.com/
Fresh Market grocery stores just make me happy. It’s destination shopping for me — even if I don’t need anything, I never pass up a chance to walk in one and breathe it in: The gorgeous fresh produce, the tempting bakery, the beautifully arranged meat, the cheeses, the oils … I can’t stop! My long-range goal is to actually live someplace where I can visit one every day — I envy anyone who can do that. I especially love Fresh Market in the fall, because apparently the folks there share my love of pumpkins. And why not? Pumpkins are cheerful, colorful, tasty and good for you. On a recent visit to Fresh Market in Huntsville, Alabama, I found pumpkin-spice coffee, a pumpkin-spice scone mix from Sticky Fingers Bakeries, Doctor Kracker pumpkin-seed cheddar flatbread (crunchy and hearty and perfect for spreadable cheese) and my favorite cereals: organic FlaxPlus pumpkin-raisin crunch and organic FlaxPlus pumpkin granola from Nature’s Path.
But even though I love Fresh Market, sometimes (well, really, almost all of the time) I cringe at spending $5 for a box of cereal. The secret is that you can find most of these products much cheaper at other non-Fresh Market places. Nature’s Path cereal, for instance, is at Wal-Mart for practically half of the Fresh Market price. And I found some Doctor Kracker crackers in my other favorite food-browsing place: T.J. Maxx, where you can pick up oils, syrups, jams, jellies and other goodies for a fraction of what you’d pay normally. Just make sure to check expiration dates. And then, with the money you save, you can go back to Fresh Market!
You know all those magazine and online quizzes that help you identify what your personality is? Well, rather than defining yourself through your favorite color or by which “Sex and the City” character you most resemble, what about your choice of pumpkins? For example, are you a Cinderella or a Red Warty Thing? Baby Boo or Fairytale? Or perhaps you’re a Prizewinner or maybe a One Too Many. See for yourself where your pumpkin tendencies lie at Jack O’Lantern Farms, on Garage Road on the TVA reservation in Muscle Shoals, Ala. Hydroponic farmers Steve and Connie Carpenter have the most extensive selection of pumpkins around, including some weird and wonderful ones you won’t see anywhere else. They’re open 4-7 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Check them out at www.jackolanternfarm.com
Okay, it’s mid-August here in northwest Alabama/southern Middle Tennessee (and really I guess everywhere else, too) but there already are signs of fall. I saw these giant pumpkins in Tullahoma, Tenn., this past weekend at Dotson’s Farm Fresh Produce, on Highway 55 going east out of town. The woman at Dotson’s said she didn’t know anything about them, only that “some man” had brought them by. Is this normal to have humongous gigantic pumpkins like these in the middle of August? I have no idea, but I predict the unknown pumpkin-growing man will win some ribbons at the Coffee County Fair. Plus, I’ve seen other signs of fall: winter squash (acorn, butternut and spaghetti) at Food Lion in Manchester; and back in Alabama, autumn decor at Wal-Mart in Muscle Shoals (but no Halloween candy yet) and jackets and sweaters squeezing out swimsuits at T.J. Maxx in Florence. Can Christmas-tree ornaments be far behind?