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“Community” is Our 2021 Word of the Year

Rather than set New Year’s Resolutions, each year I pick a word on which to focus. A couple of years ago I focused on “experience.” I am passionate about creating hands-on experiences, so families can create wonderful memories when visiting our pumpkin patch in North Iowa. 

Another year I focused on “engagement.” To make the most of your experience at Enchanted Acres’ pumpkin patch, one must engage in the activities. You must actively participate in activities whether by painting a pumpkin, taking a hayride, roasting s’mores over an open fire, feeding our goats, walking through our field to find the perfect pumpkin, and/or listening to our Books in the Barn story time. Purchasing our delicious apple cider and homemade goodies inside The Market only enhances the experience, in my opinion.

I truly enjoy seeing families take their annual photos in front of our “How Tall This Fall” photo board. I know our life-sized tractor keeps many kids coming back year after year, too. The corn pool and our friendly goats are other highlights of a visit to our little North Iowa farm. 

After reading the Winter Issue of the beautiful “Fresh Pickings” magazine from the Iowa Food & Family Project, I’ve decided my focus word for 2021 will be “community.” Editor Kelly Visser, writes, “Nine months into a global pandemic marked with grief, frustration, uncertainty and many indescribable emotions, it’s easy to turn sideways on our goals and lose sight of the bigger picture… I’m a work in progress but finding new ways to connect with my community has helped me remember my bigger picture through this isolating time.”

Let’s make 2021 the time we come together for the benefit of the North Iowa Community!

Here are a few ways in which Enchanted Acres – and YOU, our farm guests – have contributed to the North Iowa Community for the past nine years:

 

  1. Fall Ball” to benefit Make-a-Wish Iowa. Enchanted Acres presented the Fall Ball for five consecutive years. Click here to see how wishes come true for people in our own community.
  2. Embarked on a Mission to help a local veteran raise funds for his service dog. Gate proceeds plus two generous anonymous donors helped Andrew O’Connor of Sheffield, Iowa, surpass his $7,500 fundraising goal. 
  3. Paws in the Patch to benefit the Humane Society of North Iowa. Although we sponsored this benefit in 2017, the pet supply donation list is still relevant. 

Each year we host at least one fundraiser. This year I’m asking you to help me choose our cause. This spring we will start accepting nominations. I want our 2021 charity benefit to be bigger and better than ever. It feels good to do good, so let’s do some good! 

Donations will be collected for the winning charity during the 2021 fall season opener. More details will be forthcoming. 

20 Ideas to Make Winter Break Festive & Fun

Most school-age children countdown to Christmas, eagerly awaiting a visit from Santa Clause and relishing time more time to play at home. I always looked forward to my kids’ winter vacation, so our family could enjoy outings and activities that we otherwise didn’t have time to do in the midst of school and extracurricular activities. So what’s a parent to do when a worldwide pandemic prevents you from enjoying many traditional holiday activities like ice skating, watching the latest blockbuster movie or taking a mini vacation?

My answer is to return to the basics.

Although my children are now young adults, they’ve been home since Thanksgiving Eve. My daughter had to finish taking her first semester of college classes online, and my son’s college accelerated the semester and he’s making the most of a nearly two-month break from studies. Honestly, this creates a lot of downtime for kids who are used to being busy and active.

20 Ways to Brighten Your Holidays:

  1. Raise the bar. Make your own hot cocoa charcuterie board because they’re hot this season! I got inspired to make one after watching Hallmark Channel’s “A Little Christmas Charm.” Last weekend my daughter and I enjoyed a festive cup of cocoa and enjoyed a holiday movie on Netflix.
  2. Make paper snowflakes. Snowflakes can decorate your windows and refrigerator through February, so cut away!
  3. This season is for the birds. When I was a Girl Scout leader, we would simply spread peanut butter on a bagel; dip it in bird seed; then use yarn to hang it on trees.
  4. Trim the tree. When I was a kid, my mom and I made ornaments from pinecones. My Girl Scout troop made cinnamon ornaments. Click on this link for one Iowa farm family’s recipe to make adorable ornaments that look like gingerbread men and women.
  5. Picnic around the Christmas tree. When my kids were young, they enjoyed special times when I would put the “picnic blanket” on the living room floor for lunch. They also enjoyed sitting in the living room while the only lights on were on the Christmas tree. Why not combine the two ideas and make a fun memory?
  6. Bake and/or decorate cookies. You could buy cookie dough and help younger kids frost and decorate cookies. For easier clean up, have kids sprinkle sugar and candies over a 9x13 pans.
  7. Decorate a gingerbread house. You can make simple houses out of graham crackers. After all, Tiny Houses are in! All you need are candies like red hots, gum drops and candy canes.
  8. Deliver the goods. If you don’t like to bake, support one of our local bakeries and then make special deliveries to family members and special friends
  9. Make the holidays sweeter with homemade Christmas candies like peppermint fudge
  10. Take a drive. Drive around looking at holiday lights and lawn displays. Make the evening more festive by packing snacks like party pretzels or Dot’s pretzels.
  11. Fill the holidays with fun and games. You can download everything from coloring sheets and crossword puzzles to BINGO game cards.
  12. Give to others. Demand has doubled at food pantries, even in Franklin County Iowa. Consider donating a few non-perishable items. Click here for items in demand.
  13. Write before Christmas. Cards don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Encourage your children to draw pictures for special friends or neighbors. Send a letter to someone in a nursing home, even if you don’t know them. My daughter wrote letters for eight weeks this spring and delivered them to our local care center. I think it’s time she provided them with an update!
  14. Build a snowman.
  15. Read “The Polar Express” or your favorite Christmas book.
  16. Go caroling. Carolers can stand outside a person’s home and bring joy from a safe distance!
  17. Call a friend.
  18. Watch classic movies like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”
  19. Make homemade stew on Christmas Eve. When I was growing up, we always enjoyed homemade oyster stew and chili on Christmas Eve. Last year we made the switch to chili and homemade chicken noodle soup. Why not adapt traditions to suit your tastes?
  20. Take a walk under the stars. A rare celestial event will help mark the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere on Monday, Dec. 21. Jupiter and Saturn will appear very close together from an earthly vantage point, forming a Christmas star. These two gas giants are in conjunction, an occurrence that happens every 20 years or so.

Very few of the ideas above must be done by Christmas. For example, you could deliver cookies or muffins any time to special friends and neighbors. If you don’t get letters written in time for Christmas, wish people a Happy New Year. Adapt and change. Birds don’t know Christmas falls on December 25, but they enjoy your homemade treats throughout the winter.

I would love to hear what ideas you have to make winter break fun, so feel free to share them in the comments on our Enchanted Acres Facebook page.

3 Tips for Making Thanksgiving Memorable

As a child, the highlight of making the 45-minute trip to visit my grandmother in Howard County, Iowa, was a chance to drive around the beautiful countryside and watch the Amish tend to their livestock and care for their crops. I was – and still am – intrigued by their commitment to family and their sense of duty.

Each member of the family plays a part in the family’s economic survival, says Dr. John Hostetler in his book, Amish Society.  He writes: “Like most parents in American society, the Amish recognize the teen period as critical. The Amish family needs the help of its teenage child more than the typical American family, and the child feels the family’s need. The young person who works on the farm can understand and feel the contribution he is making to his family.”

Children see their parents working hard and want to help whether it’s feeding cats, gathering eggs or milking cows. Amish children are needed to help inside the house, too. Amish women often get together for a frolic, or a work event that combines socializing with a practical goal. Common frolics include quilting, canning, pie baking and applesauce making.

Like the Amish, we can make preparing and hosting a holiday meal more fun by inviting people into our kitchens. Just the word “frolic” sounds like more fun than work! Here are three tips to consider this Thanksgiving:

  1. Assign age-appropriate chores. When my kids were in pre-school, they each had an apron and chef’s hat. They helped wash vegetables, put plates on the table, etc. Now that they are teenagers, I ask them to peel potatoes or brown hamburger. Maybe your kids could help prepare an adorable turkey-shaped relish tray. After all, kids are more apt to eat veggies when they help with food prep.
  2. Count your blessings. I thought it was corny at the time, but now it is a cherished memory. On my mom’s side of the family, each person sitting at the table expressed thanks for something or someone before we began eating. Counting our blessings helps us focus on what we have rather than on what we wish we had. When my kids were small, I traced around their hands. Then I wrote a word on each paper finger for what they were thankful for… we literally counted their blessings. Now I keep gratitude journal by listing 5 things for which I’m thankful. Even if I don’t write them down daily, I still begin my day with gratitude.
  3.  Focus on fun and games. When I was growing up, my mom and I used to make holiday crafts like a turkey craft at Thanksgiving. (I still have a bag of colorful feathers from my own kids’ turkey crafts.) When I was older, Mom set a timer and we would race to see how many words we could find in a Word Search. As an adult, I look forward to playing cards. What have you done to create wonderful holiday memories? How could you start a new tradition this Thanksgiving?

This holiday I plan to “get my ask in order,” and invite people into my kitchen to help with food prep. Today I’m sharing recipes for a few of my family’s favorite holiday dishes:

Thanksgiving will probably look different for all of us this year as we continue to navigate through the pandemic. “Different,” however, doesn’t have to mean “bad.” I will treasure memories of holidays past while doing my best to create more wonderful memories with those who are gathered near. I wish the same for you!
 

Free Gate Every Weekend This Fall

Open sesame!

The gates to our magical pumpkin patch open for the 2020 fall season on Friday, Sept. 25. You and your family are invited to join us for your favorite fall activities. Enjoy taking hayrides, decorating pumpkins and roasting campfire s’mores.
 
Enchanted Acres will be open from 9 AM to 5 PM every Friday and Saturday and from 11 AM to 5 PM every Sunday from Sept. 25 through Oct. 25. Please note that Fridays are “shop or play” days. You’re welcome to pick pumpkins or shop inside The Market. The Marketplace Café is open on Fridays for beverages and pre-made snacks, but please note that we don’t offer the full concessions menu that is available on Saturdays and Sundays. If you’re interested in enjoying lunch or dinner nearby, check out Sheffield’s eateries including West Fork Wharf and Brickyard Bistro.

The Marketplace Café will be open on Saturdays and Sundays, serving up our popular Pumpkin Patch Paninis. We have a great panini menu, plus each weekend we will be serving up a homemade lunch special.

Check out our Schedule of Events, and make plans to join us throughout the season. NOTE: Special workshops, including succulent potting and the 1 PM crafting sessions on Saturdays, require advanced registration. This year we’re excited to once again offer Goat Yoga, starring Lil’ Romeo and his big buddy, Chip. Be sure to visit our farm mascot, Nibbles, who gave birth to adorable twins on September 2. 
 
It’s our hope that a visit (or two or three!) to Enchanted Acres becomes an annual tradition. We often post event updates throughout the season on Facebook, so be sure to “give us a like.” You can follow along with the fun all year long through Facebook and Instagram. In addition, we provide a complimentary quarterly newsletter to which you can subscribe by clicking here.
 
We look forward to seeing you see you soon at Enchanted Acres in Sheffield, Iowa, where memories grow!