Mama’s collecting rocks

Yesterday’s visit to Proulx Farm, which was only a few steps from Orleans and a 30-minute drive east of downtown Ottawa.

Every year, the farm is transformed into an autumn- and Halloween-themed playground. It really is an enjoyable experience for families, couples, or individuals — everyone, really! There’s just so much to see and explore.

We appreciated how vast and open, yet how well-organized, the farm and its activity set-up was. The tractor wagon ride was our favourite activity. It was actually a long ride around the farm — not just a quick tour — that encouraged us to observe all the Halloween decorations and animated hay bales along the way. The hay bales were so impressive in their creativity. I loved the ox and the cow. We were also introduced to a haunted Halloween house, which, although Keaton was hesitant to enter at first, by the end of it, enjoyed so much, he exclaimed, “Oh, nice!”

We also loved that the tractor driver was able to drop us off at our desired activity. We got off at the pumpkin patch along with another family. They’d left right away, perhaps because the hike to the field was patchy and full of tall grass and dirt. So, we were on our own and enjoyed all the quiet and solitude in the world. There weren’t many pumpkins at the patch, unfortunately, but the experience was still a treat. Keaton chose one he liked. Shortly after, another tractor wagon came to pick us up along the way. (We never saw the other family after this experience, and I do wonder if they’d gone to the maze after the pumpkin patch… and if they indeed got lost and never made it out.)

There was also an abundance of activities for kids to enjoy at the farm: animal petting, mazes, bouncy castles, face painting, treehouses and playgrounds, you name it. Keaton didn’t want to get his face painted this time around. We were bummed because he was so cute when he was a tiger the very first time he got his face painted. (Oh well.) We also liked that there were many picnic tables to have snacks and lunch, and they also sold hot dogs and burgers.

We’d spent a whopping four plus hours at the farm — Keaton fell asleep hard in the car when we left — and prior to leaving, we grabbed some more pumpkins for the home. There were so many varieties of pumpkins of different shapes, colours, and sizes. Of course, it was bright and sunny and the leaves were still green, but if it’d been a cloudy, crispy sweater weather kind of day, with orange and red tones in the trees, it would’ve made for the perfect autumn scene.

The cow train and the old lady

This weekend, we visited another farm/orchard: Cannamore Orchard, which was about a 40-minute drive from Ottawa’s centre core. It was a spontaneous trip with our family and Kong-Ma, and we all had a good, but tiring, time. I think my mom has taken a liking to farm visits lately. She’s been smiling so much and laughing heartily, too.

The orchard’s opening time was at 10AM, and as we were driving into the parking lot, we were surprised to see just how busy it was already. We were a bit saddened that all the wagons and carts had been taken; we were hoping to grab one to head out to the pumpkin patch. Yet the busy morning made all the sense in the world. After all, it was a sunny Saturday morning, probably the only sunny day in the week before a weeklong prediction of heavy rain. And, it’s the season for farms and pumpkin patches.

After we bought our tickets, we headed out to explore. The orchard was wonderfully vast and expansive. We walked by the apple orchard, which was already nearing its last moments of the season, for apples were scarce or have already fallen on the ground. Nevertheless, it was a lovely sight that reminded us of our own apple-picking experience from just a few weeks ago. (We were lucky to have gone apple-picking at the very start of the season, when apples were plentiful on trees.) We then ventured on and enjoyed a quiet and secluded walk into the deep woods and open fields.

But soon after, a question arose, “Where are we and where are the Family Fun Day activities?” Lost, we decided to walk back, and that’s when we stumbled upon the tractor wagon driver, who was already starting his early wagon ride of the day, with only one family seated. We waved to inquire if we could hop on, and he happily stopped to collect us. The tractor wagon ride was a calming experience. Since we were one of the only ones riding, it felt private and secluded. I loved feeling the crisp autumn wind on my face and hair most of all. Keaton and Mama also enjoyed their apples during the ride. It was a cute sight to watch Keaton sitting on daddy’s lap and biting his big, luscious apple (which he later dropped).

The driver dropped us off next to the lobby, where all the Family Fun Day activities were, and that’s when we experienced an a-ha moment, because it’s exactly what we were looking for at the start. (We walked in the opposite direction and ended up elsewhere on the farm.) There were many activities for kids to enjoy: a playground with toys, pedal cars, a cow train, mazes, and even chickens and horses. Keaton had a blast at the playground, which, funnily enough, was where all the families were gathered. Parents and caregivers all shared a common thematic desire: fun for the kids and a moment of survival and peace. When I looked around and saw the chaos of everyday parent life, I can say that my sense of belonging grew incrementally.

I think the funnest experience for all of us was the cow train. Luckily, we hopped on at an earlier time, so we were able to beat the long lineups. It was adorable that all the cows had names. I didn’t know that they were all different sizes, so I coincidentally chose a small one that left me no leg room, and boy, did I hope throughout the long ride that I wouldn’t go into labour with all the bumps! While Keaton sat on daddy’s lap in their cow train compartment, Kong-Ma had their individual compartments. For two elderly people, they sure had an anxious but good time! The comical moment of the experience was when the cow train driver almost left with my mom stuck in the train; she was the last to get off and he hadn’t noticed. We all had to yell for him to stop. In retrospect, we all laughed, especially my mom.

After much time back at the playground, we decided it was time to go. We missed the pumpkin patch, unfortunately, because afternoon had already crept up and none of us had eaten, Keaton hadn’t napped, and we were all fatigued. What we did instead was have Keaton choose a pumpkin from the display of pre-picked pumpkins in front of the lobby — he chose a perfect one — and got him a lollipop that he’d been asking for since seeing a little boy holding and eating one at the playground.

Life as we know it always has its clumsy moments, for when we returned to the car, again, we had to grapple with invading wasps. It was a funny sight for Keaton. He just watched his daddy flailing left and right like a crazy person, and I’m sure that at that moment, he thought his daddy was indeed crazy. What else is new in our family? We’ve all gone haywire.

Mums n’ Pumpkins

It really is becoming our ritual to visit a farm every weekend. This morning, we visited another one: Millers’ Farm & Market. It’s now September, so I have all the excuse in the world to dream of autumn and brightly coloured pumpkins and seasonal offerings.

Even if today felt like a beaming hot summer day — and I’ve been hoping dearly for crisp cloudy days to hasten their presence — it didn’t stop me from feeling all the autumn vibes. Just the sight of colourful pumpkins, gourds, and squashes, as well as beautiful fall mums at this farm, was enough to satisfy my soulful autumn craving.

There were so many brightly coloured pumpkins and veggie friends! Keaton had a fun time pulling the wagon around and choosing all the pumpkins to his heart’s desire.

Our wagon is complete! Keaton’s choices for today featured pumpkins, gourds, and different coloured fall mums. It was endearing to watch him voyage around the farm with the wagon, pulling it himself and asking help from daddy when needed, and choosing all the pumpkins and flowers. I’m proud of him for making such beautiful choices, especially the mums. He picked them out and put them in the wagon himself.

There were also rabbits and chickens at the farm. My heart melted watching my little guy be so gentle and loving with the animals. He loved these rabbits. I, myself, have been wanting to adopt a Holland Lop bunny lately (since I was a kid, in fact). It’s just about convincing my husband at this point.

Mums from the farm in our backyard! They now add colour and life to our outdoor abode.

The white pumpkin from the farm, a new addition to our fireplace mantel. Do you spot Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas? We’d recently bought this neat Halloween newspaper plaque decor in honour of one of our favourite Halloween films.

Another one of Keaton’s pumpkins. This one is sitting on our TV stand. Besides choosing his pumpkins, he also chose where to place them in the home. I appreciate my little helper and all his initiative.

At this rate, I think that by the end of October we’ll have visited countless farms and adopted so many pumpkins, our home itself will have become a pumpkin patch.

“Sheeep, heeere, yum yummm!”

I did a little something: I pulled out my fall decorations, as well as some Halloween ones, prior to September. It’s my happy time and place. It’s also been raining and much cooler these days, so the theme was quite fitting. Seeing the autumn details around the home makes me feel cozy and warm, and ready to embrace the changing season and cold sweater weather — and cuddle weather, too. 

I’ve been loving our new fall- and Halloween-themed Snoopy mugs. Drinking coffee from them in the morning brings me an insurmountable amount of joy. Snoopy’s my all-time favourite comic strip character. He’s cute, he’s sassy, he’s a dreamer, he’s unapologetically resilient, he’s comical, he’s a cookie monster, he’s a romantic, he’s a shit-disturber. He’s wholesome. 

Speaking of an autumn feel, we’ve been visiting many farms lately — we seem to be on a roll. The first one we visited was just at the end of August, when Keaton’s grandmother, Nana, visited. We went to Saunders Farm. There were plenty of activities and play structures for kids to entertain themselves with, as well as ample of space for them to run loose, which was a major plus for Keaton to release all his energy. 

We all really enjoyed the tractor wagon ride. Keaton looked uncertain when he first sat down in the wagon, even if he was excited to go on it. It took a moment — as soon as the wagon started going — for him to find comfort and fun in the ride. He liked it so much that we did it twice! I, too, found the experience both fun and soothing. My husband said he hadn’t seen me smile this much in a long time. It’s true that I was very happy that day. A beautiful day with loved ones and my kid smiling, and experiencing a wagon ride that I’ve always wanted to try as a kid, was enough to set my heart ablaze with happiness. 

But of course my parental bliss didn’t last long. Shortly after, our hearts sank at the farm’s infamous maze. Keaton had slipped away during our quest. Our little dude is so fast and wild, he slipped away from underneath the trees. It wasn’t out of mean-spiritedness or because he’s rambunctious; it’s because he just wanted to play and for us to chase him. He was having fun being playful; but for us parents and adults, our hearts skipped a beat when he ran off laughing. Luckily, Nana caught up with him quickly. Oh boy, do we ever consider leashing our little guy! Alas, that was our crazy adventure of the day. 

I loved the Halloween decorations at the gift shop. Oranges and blacks, gnomes and ghosts, pumpkins and scarecrows — I was already in the Halloween mood. I can’t wait to be back at this farm for pumpkin season. If summertime is already a sweet sight, imagine when the leaves start to transform into yellow, orange, red, and brown hues, and when the weather is more crisp and pumpkin season is here. This farm would transform into an oasis of autumn!

The next treat we had the pleasure of indulging in was apple-picking at an orchard. We took my parents with us, too. Because we were at the peak of apple-picking season, there were plenty of apples to pick from trees. It was a magical sight. The orchard blossomed with so many apples that I could easily picture how romantic it would be to have a wedding or family photoshoot there.

Of course, with a toddler — a strong-willed and spirited one — outings are never easy. Keaton fussed the entire time we were there because he wanted to see a tractor; he wasn’t entertained by the orchard. I felt my heart swell with hopelessness as I looked around and saw other parents calmly strolling around with their easygoing kids. I’d really hoped for a nice family moment; we rarely have these moments in our lives because our son has never been an easy one. Babies and toddlers who are able to just accompany their parents? Completely foreign to us. We can’t deny how it kills our souls sometimes. Yet, difficult as he is, we love our little dude just the same. He’s wildly aware and intelligent, and we’re very proud of who he is.

The other challenging part of our experience were the wasps. It’s wasp season so we’d been visited by many buzzing guests, who were attracted to our apples and to our very existence — alas, sweetness was everywhere. They even followed us all the way back to the parking lot and our car. It was like a comedic horror movie featuring our clumsy family of five, who were trying to escape a zombie raid. What an experience that day was. It had its flaws, but I was still very grateful for the moments we shared as a family.

It was an especially special day because it was my parents’ first outing with us — the first time they really got to do an activity in their lives. And I say this with a heavy heart. My mom really enjoyed the apple-picking experience; she picked the whole bag while we were losing our heads with our kiddo. My dad also enjoyed taking photos. As for Keaton, he, too, enjoyed climbing the ladder to pick the apples, as well as eating the orchard’s infamous churros. While they weren’t the best as people had claimed — perhaps we’d received a bad batch — the experience was worthwhile. 

The next farm we went to was The Log Farm, which was conveniently located in the city centre compared to all the other farms. I felt guilty for having almost overlooked this farm. At first, it looked rather unassuming online; I didn’t think there would be much to see or do. Their advertisement was modest, too. But, I’m very glad that we decided to spontaneously visit it, because it turned out to be the best farm ever. 

We really enjoyed the walk from the parking lot to the farm itself. We walked along a trail that took us through the woods, which felt like a hike in nature. I could see early on that my parents were enjoying the experience already. My mother, for an old lady, sure walked fast — as if excited to explore more.

I appreciated how low-key and humble the farm was. It was cozy, modest, well-loved and neat, and it didn’t boast. This farm was started by a family in the 1800’s; and until today, I could still feel the spirit of love, hard work, and dedication as I walked peacefully around the fields. A picturesque sight to behold, that’s for sure. 

If the apple-picking experience was a fail for Keaton, then this farm the next day far more than made up for it. Our little fellow was insanely smitten with his visit here. There were doll houses for kids, swings, a sandbox with an abundance of truck and car toys, tractor vehicles to ride, sensory tables, and many more! Keaton enjoyed it so much he would’ve stayed here all day if he could. 

There was also a tractor wagon ride, which he’d wildly sought for at the apple orchard. And here, he finally got it. It’s funny, though, because while he was so intent on riding the tractor wagon, as soon as he got on it, as with his experience at Saunders Farm, he became rather uncertain and shy. It took a few moments until he’d relax again. As for my parents, oh boy, did they ever smile and laugh! My mom made a new friend on the wagon ride: a beautiful baby girl, who kept smiling and waving back at her. The ride was lovely; we interacted quite a bit with other families. It felt communal. We all shared a sense of belonging. 

There were also many cute animals on the farm: chickens, cows, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, alpacas, you name it. The animals were beautiful and plump; they looked healthy and happy. Keaton asked to feed the goats. It was so adorable when he called out, “Sheeep! Heeere! Yum, yummm!” Of course there’s always that one sassy goat with attitude. The one in the photo is the one that grabbed the whole cone from Keaton’s hand. It was so funny.

We loved walking along scarecrow lane. Perhaps other visitors didn’t notice the hidden path, but we did; and because we were the only ones, it was ever so peaceful. We enjoyed looking for hidden scarecrows along the path. I could tell how much my parents enjoyed this farm and experience most of all. I hadn’t seen them smile and laugh, and let loose so much, in ages. 

My parents are very old now, and because of old age, health and anxiety issues, and, recently, COVID-19, they’ve naturally been homebound for many years. In fact, they haven’t experienced much of the fun side of life since immigrating to Canada in 1980. Now, it’s our turn to drive them around and show them the world and life, just as they’d shown us as children.┬áThat being said, we’ll definitely be back at this farm, as well as explore other farms, for pumpkin season and for the holiday Christmas markets. A different feeling and vibe, I can’t wait.