With the change of seasons comes a bit of sadness as we long for a little more summer fun in the sun. However, the crisp Fall weather does bring some of its own positives. From harvest to home football games and hot apple cider to haunted houses, Iowans are still eager to make the most of these weeks...knowing that Old Man Winter will be soon be awakening from his slumber.
One of the best ways to still enjoy the outdoors with family and friends is by visiting your local pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and corn mazes. There are dozens of these family friendly farms and agri-tourism destinations dotted all over Iowa and they are fun way to fill any day of the week.
The Iowa Adventurer recently stopped by Solsma's Punkin Patch, which is located between the communities of Sanborn and Hartley in northwest Iowa.
Now in her 19th year of operation, I stopped by to see my friend Amy Solsma on my way to the world-famous Clay County Fair in Spencer.
Solsma's Punkin Patch is not hard to find - it's right on Highway 18 and and there are several signs as you approach from either direction. There is also ample parking.
Their family farm, which she owns with her husband Jay, also includes cattle, grain, and a Beck's seed dealership. Since Iowa legalized the sale of fireworks in 2017, the Solsmas are also now in the pyrotechnics business, too.
Out front of their Country Store, which is also where the fireworks are sold during the authorized annual time periods, there is a large selections of pumpkins of varying size and price.
Inside the country store, there is a wide variety of items. From jams, honey, and popcorn to wine, beef, and decorations, the selection of local products is great.
They have set up a display with almost one of every variety of pumpkin or gourd that they grow and sell.
The Solsmas also grow their own popcorn and the beef is from their own herd of purebred Herefords, which they also sell for breeding stock and shows.
I didn't see any samples of the beef, but you they do offer freshly popped samples of their popcorn.
As mentioned previously, the State of Iowa allowed the sale of fireworks beginning in 2017, but only for a certain period of time around July 4 and another time period around the holidays. You won't find any fireworks on the shelves this fall but they do have a poster in the store reminding patrons that that they can come back to get some in a few months.
On the front porch of the Country Store, they have additional produce and pumpkins as well as apple products and even a corn box for little kids to enjoy.
There's also an inflatable bounce house for children to play in as well.
I cannot remember the last time I've personally done a corn maze but the Solsma family has one on the premises. It enters and exits near the country store and there is a great antique tractor showing you where to start.
There are almost five acres of pumpkins and Amy was kind enough to give me a ride out to drive through the patch a bit. I'm glad she wasn't expecting me to start picking!
The family also has some rows of Indian Corn and some of the different ears were absolutely stunning in their coloration.
We're all familiar with carving and painting pumpkins, but Amy has gotten quite good at scarring pumpkins. When the pumpkins are still small and on the vine she takes the sharp end of a screw and makes a design. As the pumpkin continues to grow, the scar heals. The end result is quite cool. She will do custom work but also has a large selection of her own creations for sale.
It was the morning of the Iowa v. Iowa State football game when I stopped. If you wanted to, you could have taken one of each home if your house is divided.
As much as I would have loved to have the Cyclones pumpkin, the Iowa Adventurer pumpkins were pretty amazing. I took these three beauties home with me.
We all need take a few minutes to enjoy the fall weather and season. As we well know, it won't stick around forever. The next time you are in the Hartley or Sanborn area, stop by and check out their wide-ranging selection of products and offerings. In the meantime, check out their Facebook page and website.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in O'Brien County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have an idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.