It’s late October; the mountains are splashed with red, gold, yellow and russet as the hardwood trees settle in for a long nap. There is a bite of winter to the nighttime air. Most of the garden is slowing to a crawl if it’s not wilting up entirely. But not everything in the garden is going dormant.
Winter crops include leaf lettuce, mesclun, carrots, chard, Brussels sprouts and onions. These will continue to grow and provide fresh vegetables well into the winter. Winter gardening? Outdoors? Yes! This is possible by choosing carefully the crop you plant and providing protection from winds and storms through cold frames, many root crops and some leafy greens can be grown even in the winter. And not just in the south. The Winter Harvest Handbook was written by a fellow who runs a year round farm – in Maine! And he does this without hothouses.
This is Leaf Peeper season in the Smokies: a time when tourists from all around the country come here to look at and hike among the colorful fall foliage. There are many festivals as well, nearly all will feature locally made art and crafts, delicious food, as well as traditional dancing and music.
Another favorite fall activity is to visit a corn maze. Mature corn stalks can be 7 to 10 feet tall, so a corn field makes an ideal place to play hide and seek. At some point an enterprising farmer decided he’d mow a convoluted path through his field and charge people to come play in it before harvesting the crop. Modern corn mazes are planned out in the spring using a CAD computer program. The corn is planted and allowed to grow to knee height. Then the paths are planned using paint and anything from a survey tape to GPS devices. Then the stalks that are in the pathways are pulled up by the roots to prevent resprouting. Once the corn is grown to above head height, the maze is ready to open for business.
Some mazes provide maps and color coded tags on the corn to help visitors navigate the maze, others get snazzier: one gives each group a flag that stands up above the corn, the leader of the party can get hints texted to their phone from a corntrol tower. The Oakes Farm Maze in Corryton Tennessee steps up the challenge a bit by placing 12 goal posts inside the maze. Visitors are to find all 12 posts, then find their way back out. Plan to spend the day at this one!
Oakes Farm is among those who offer a haunted maze at Halloween, They call theirs The Trail of Doom. Bring a change of underwear!
If you’d like to check out a corn maze in your state, this web site will prove useful: http://www.themaize.com/map_locations.php
With the cooler evening air, this is a perfect time to enjoy a family bonfire and wiener roast, just be sure you are being cautions with your fire, the dry leaves will go up like a tinderbox if your fire or floating embers get to them. You may sing if you want, but it’s not required!
It’s time to get outside and enjoy the cool crisp air before winter sets in and we curl up like bears to hibernate.
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