April 18, 2014

Appreciating Autumn in New England

Photo credit: nealaus

New England is a great place to visit year round, depending on whether the tourist is looking for beach, skiing, sightseeing, history, or whatever.  Autumn, however, is the natural tour de force up here.  We do it really well, in many ways, and not like anywhere else.

FOLIAGE

Viewing autumn foliage in New England — or ‘leaf peeping’, as it’s termed up here — is an event not to be missed. Yes, the leaves turn everywhere in the fall, but in New England, especially in October, it’s a new and breathtaking experience, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.  Driving along the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, for example, one can get the entire experience.  The autumn pallette on the mountain sides, reflections of same off the river, maybe a moose or deer sighting, or if one is truly adventurous, a trip up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, and all from the comfort of a vehicle.

Foliage is such a big deal up here that the best viewing is organized in a website by Yankee magazine that is updated daily.

FARMER’S MARKETS

I like road trips. I like them best when there is no snow on the ground. From April through November, generally, wherever I happen to be, a drive to see what’s what is usually in order. One sight that will always draw my attention is a farmer’s market. They exist in cities as well as in country venues.

What’s fun about a farmer’s market is varied by season. In spring, there are seedlings and spring jams, as well as cold weather vegetables. Summer is rife with fresh produce from both small farms or large. The friendly pricing competition is always to the buyer’s benefit. Fall is no less fun than any other season. The farming season’s end provides things like squashes and pumpkins – to be expected – but also, one can pick up green tomatoes, corn stalks, pickles, fruit butters, and other yummy things that remind us it’s time to look toward winter.

I’ve also seen home baked goods (pies, breads, pastries) and hand crafted goods at farmers’ markets. One of my local weekly markets invites local musicians to perform, as well, which helps make the visit an event.

Here is a website which will be a handy resource for finding farms and farmer’s markets in the 48 continental United States. If you’ve never been, or if you already know the benefits of a farmer’s market, be sure to check here for locations you may not know.

Photo credit: Yodel Anecdotal

COUNTRY FAIRS

As summer winds down, we find ourselves heading into country fair season. No matter where you live, there will be fairs in the fall. Rides, skill games, animals, concerts, and food all waiting to be enjoyed.  If you happen to be traveling in September or October, you could include a fair in your agenda.

To find if a fair will be accommodating your travel schedule, or to plan a trip around a specific fair in a specific state, here is a site that shows an extensive list of fairs by state.

My two favorite Maine fairs are the Fryeburg Fair and the Common Ground fair.  These two fairs couldn’t be more different, and each deserves a notable mention.

The Fryeburg Fair is the biggest fair in the State of Maine. It is a 10-day affair that is a year or more in the making. Folks come from far and wide to attend the fair. Many people camp for the duration…right on the grounds! From Woodman’s Day the first Monday of the fair, to the incredible exhibition halls, to the rich celebration of agricultural life, to the Midway, to animals animals animals, and ohmygod, the food, the Fryeburg Fair is fair competition to any state fair.

Always beginning the first or second weekend of October, the fair is a destination on it’s own or combined with some good, solid New England leaf peeping.  It takes some time to take in the whole thing, so plan to spend the day; take a camera; take an appetite. It will be an unforgettable experience.

The Common Ground Fair is a celebration of rural living. The fair is hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA) in Unity, Maine, and is always in September — usually the third or fourth week.  The nature of the fair is Green.  One can learn the latest about alternative energy, organic gardening (there are fruitful gardens right on site), Green causes, sheep dog training, and, oh, the food.  All the food must be grown or raised in Maine.  Healthy tastes pretty darned good, if I do say so. There is no midway and there are no barkers, but there is also no shortage of things to do and see. Kids have their own area and can participate, in costume, in the vegetable parade. It is rare I miss this fair, because I don’t know of another like it and am glad it’s here in Maine to enjoy.

The coolest thing about the Fryeburg and Common Ground fair is that the former comes right on the heels of the latter. One could plan a one-week vacation and manage to take in both fairs.

Photo credit: nightthree

CORN MAZES

Corn mazes are a great, inexpensive, out of the ordinary family thing to do.  I went for the first time last year.  It was big, big fun.  They’ve gained in popularity in the last few years, so that any state that grows corn has farms that extend the season by creating corn mazes.  The corn is usually feed corn for livestock, is very tall, and very dense. The mazes are huge fun. Seldom are any two alike, and they frequently are accompanied by fallish food and beverages…like cider donuts.

Additionally, the maze may not be the only attraction. Farm animals to feed, like a mini-petting zoo, a hay ride, pumpkin picking may all be included in the price of admission. A local corn maze here in Maine includes a ‘corn cannon’ with tin animal targets and a ‘corn box’, think sand box but with corn, along with three mazes of various complexity.

Some mazes also offer a spookier night version of maze fare by including witches, demons and other various and sundry distractions along the way.

A quick internet search turned up a nice listing of corn mazes and pumpkin patches in the U.S. Nearly every state has at least one listed.  What a nice way to celebrate autumn.

Photo credit: Wildcat Dunny

Comments

  1. Just simply driving around NE, anywhere, seems like a great bet in the autumn. I hope to do so soon.

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