Halloween Fun

October has arrived and with it sudden cold wind and rain. But despite the miserable weather it is also time for Halloween fun for the kids so wellies and waterproofs were out this weekend.

We headed out to the Pumpkin Patch on a farm near Milton Keynes. I’ve never heard of pick your own pumpkins before, but happily buying local produce and getting involved with growers is gaining popularity. This means you can pick so much more than just the classic Summer strawberries. This was much better than buying pumpkins from the local supermarket. In fact this creative farm are planning pick your own sunflowers and cut flowers next Summer, so there’s more to look forward to.

We chatted with the lovely folks who created the patch and they told us all about their pumpkin growing adventure including sourcing thousands of seeds from 8 different varieties, finding a seed drill that would work for planting pumpkin seeds and resurrecting an antique 1950’s tractor, which was the only machine they could find that would effectively work the drill.

The patch has been planted with a great variety including white pumpkins, guess which from the list below!

  • Racer
  • Rocket
  • Gold Medal
  • Mars
  • Becky
  • Polar Bear
  • Blaze
  • Casperitia

Racer, Rocket and Gold Medal make good medium to large carving pumpkins. Mars is a small dark coloured pumpkin. Becky has great flavour. Polar Bear – a white one of course! Blaze has flashy yellow and orange stripes. Casperita is also a white pumpkin but smaller than the Polar Bear

All the weeding was done by hand as pesticides were a “no no” and eventually all the cutting of the pumpkins as well. The sowing was completed in May and they found themselves dreaming of pumpkins in the build up to the big opening. The patch opened on Saturday to a huge local response. Over two thousand people have already visited making this Halloween event an instant success and hopefully a fixture for years to come.

As well as the pumpkin patch there is face painting, a bale maze, an enormous amount of mud, (which is always good fun – I figure if you are going to get a bit muddy, you may as well get REALLY muddy), coffee and cake for tired mums and dads, locally made food including ace hot sausage rolls and pumpkin pasties from neighbouring Cranley Barn Farms and there will be barrel rides once everything dries out a bit. You can also book a professional photography shoot with Kate Stoddart Scott who is a master at capturing special moments. There is something for everyone.

As a side note Cranley Barn Farms shop is very much worth a visit. They have the best bacon I have ever tasted and a farming ethos that is ethical, eco friendly and forward thinking. Have a look at their blog here.

As soon as we got home the kids were keen to start carving. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with pumpkins at Halloween. I always felt bad carving them up, chucking all the insides away and then watching their goulish faces slowly rotting. I hate the smell of raw pumpkin and never found a recipe to cook any of it, as to be honest I had never really made the effort. It seemed so wasteful. The strange thing is that I love butternut squash and have eaten pumpkin pie before and liked it, so I needed to stick a peg on my nose and try to cook something with our pumpkin patch haul.

I found a lovely recipe for pumpkin breakfast bars. These tied in really well with our new snack regime at school. School is pretty strict about what the kids bring in for snacks and rightfully so. We cannot send in cakes, chocs, biscuits, crisps or anything in plastic so the rule of thumb is it has to be healthy and eco friendly. It’s a good rule and makes loads of sense to me as well as instilling good snacking habits in the kids, but it can be a bit challenging, which speaks volumes for the culture we live in now. Of course practically everything store bought is processed, loaded with sugar and wrapped in plastic so trying to dodge that can be a puzzle. Especially when half the kids are obsessed with Winders! If you don’t know what these are, then it is probably best to stay that way. I find them like the edible equivalent of a roll of double-sided sticky tape.

Bananas and oranges are great and of course they come in their own packaging. I’ve leaned heavily on apples too, as my daughter loves them. Although she’s recently lost her two front teeth and struggled to bite into an apple for a while. I’ve had to cut them up and squirt lemon juice on them to stop them going brown. She now especially likes lemony apples. I’ve also developed an interesting preoccupation with Tupperware and other reusable receptacles. It’s all well and good ditching single use plastic, but not if your kids lose a Tupperware a day at school! I am the Tupperware police. Sharpie at the ready for writing names on and a “don’t forget to find your Tupperware” is often my last call at the school gates in the morning.

After some scrambling about in the loft I managed to locate the Halloween paraphernalia and pumpkin carving knives. These are pretty effective and blunt enough for my three year old son to weald without us having to make a trip to A&E. He had a bit of help, but my daughter managed to carve a brilliant and somewhat unsettling Halloween face into her pumpkin all by herself.

Whilst the kids were carving their pumpkins I chopped up the smallest one and a tiny squash we found growing in the veg patch (wonders never cease) to make pumpkin puree for the breakfast bars. Unbelievably everything came together and this morning my daughter raced to school (always late despite living the closest) with a pumpkin bar and had memorised the sentence “Miss, this bar has no butter, flour or sugar, it isn’t a cake honest…” We shall see how it goes down and whether the Tupperware makes it home. Now I just need to bake and puree the kids creations without them noticing or go back to the patch to buy some more pumpkins!