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October 4, 2011 > Harvest time on the farm

Harvest time on the farm

By Julie Grabowski
Photos By Ira Bletz

Step out into waving fields of corn, take a deep breath of farm-fresh air, and be a sharecropper for a day when Ardenwood Historic Farm hosts their annual Harvest Festival. Usher in fall by helping fill Ardenwood corncribs with Indian corn and popcorn, and take home your own share of the bounty.

Experiencing harvest time on the working farm has been an activity open to the public since 1985. Education programs at Ardenwood follow the cycle of crops such as wheat, oats, and corn; all important food sources for people and animals.

Five categories of corn are grown for food: flour corn, flint corn (also called Indian corn), dent corn, sweet corn, and popcorn. Indian corn and popcorn are the two varieties found in the Ardenwood fields. Indian corn can be a wide range of colors, and as a hard shell covers the kernels, it is perfectly suited to be preserved as an ornamental decoration. It is also edible when ground into cornmeal. Popcorn is yellow or white and is the only kind of corn that pops. When heated, moisture in the kernel turns into steam, building up pressure until the kernel explodes, turning itself inside out and forming a fluffy white snack treat.

If you are taking home some popcorn, let it dry until the end of November before popping. To prepare, place one ear of corn in a brown paper bag and microwave on high for two and a half to three minutes. Listen for the corn to stop popping and remove immediately. Shelled kernels of corn may also be popped in this manner, used in a hot air popper, or on top of the stove in a pan with oil. (Do not attempt to pop the kernels left on the cob; the cob will burn.)

Four acres of corn will be open for harvest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and attendees are welcome to pick all they want, but 50 percent of the pickings must be shared with Ardenwood. The farm's share of the Indian corn is used throughout the year as supplemental feed for their livestock and the popcorn is given away in education programs. Bring your own bags and toss in some gloves also, as corn can be rough on the hands.

While the event centers on hauling in the harvest, corn is by no means the only thing on the menu. The Farmyard will host corn husk doll making from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., blacksmithing demos, and ice cream making. Get free tasty samples of old-fashioned treats at the Country Kitchen, take a horse-drawn train ride, or learn about apple cider pressing (1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. behind the Patterson House).

Brian Scott will bring his Wizard Training Show to the Patterson House lawn at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. See corn and wheat ground into flour at a grain milling demo, and purchase a bag to take home. Dan Engle and Ray Frank will play some lively 19th century tunes at the Granary, and David Maloney performs his very special kids sing-along from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. near the Chicken Coop.

The Patterson House will be open for guided tours at 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and noon (no children under six years old). Tickets are available at the front porch of the house. Stop by later for their Open House from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. where all ages are welcome and no tickets are required. A Glimpse of the House will be given from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. with parlor tours only.

Complete the day with a visit to Perry Farms' pumpkin patch to scout out the perfect pumpkins for scary Halloween faces, pie, or ambient seasonal decor.

The Harvest Festival provides a fabulous fall experience in a fun and unique event sure to create lasting memories for seasons to come.

Admission to the farm is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors (62 and up), and $5 for kids (ages 4-17). Kids three and under are free.

Harvest Festival
Saturday, October 8 and Sunday, October 9
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
(510) 544-2797
Tickets: $5 - $8

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