Searching for the perfect pumpkin with the Reynolds family

Mike Reynolds (blog/Twitter) is an Ottawa born-and-raised husband,  father to one and soon to be second. He’s obsessed with making sure his daughter says ‘daddy and mommy’ and not ‘mommy and daddy’ and with finding junk he thinks will one day be considered an antique. He also blogs about his admitted cluelessness when it comes to raising a child.

If you’re the kind of family that counts down to all the major decorating days of the year (Christmas and Halloween being the two biggest in our family) then you’re likely a family that thrives on finding the perfect pumpkin.

And if you thrive on finding the perfect pumpkin, then there aren’t many better places to look than Millers’ Farm & Market, located just south of Ottawa in Manotick.

While you might think that Manotick is a little far to go in order to buy a pumpkin, there’s more to this pumpkin farm than big orange fruits (or do you consider it a vegetable?).

Once you’ve parked your car on the grassy parking lot (a novelty unto itself), you’re greeted by an astounding number of pumpkins and gourds, all laid out for the public to marvel at. The gourds can provide hours, or at least many minutes, of fun, and we made it a family competition to see who could find the gourd most shaped like a Sesame Street character.

Mike and Leah playing in the bales of hay

There are also the hay bales that kids can climb up on and jump off as parents watch, horrified by how dirty a hay bale can truly be. Get there on a particularly wet and muddy day to see how much fun your kid can have going from white clothing to brown clothing.

Once the kids have had enough fun in the hay, it’s time to move to the hayride where, although they’ll get even dirtier, they’ll get to be pulled behind a big tractor into the pumpkin patch itself. Families who choose to skip this step can still buy one of the many pre-picked pumpkins, but where’s the fun in that? Plus you don’t get a lollipop if you don’t do the tractor ride.

By missing out on the tractor ride, you’re also missing the chance to explore the small building full of antiques. You can look through old advertising signs, mason jars and, something we also left with, old rocking horses. It’s a great way to spend a few minutes while everyone else climbs over pumpkins and bales of hay.

But of course, the reason you come to the pumpkin patch is to go out and find the perfect pumpkin—the one you see and wonder how everyone else could have passed it by. The elusive Great Pumpkin.

The tractor ride is only about five minutes, but they’re minutes you’ll spend being amazed that pumpkins just grow on the ground like that. You’ll pass an acres-large corn maze that you’d be too embarrassed to try because you know you wouldn’t find your way out. You’ll slosh your way through large puddles of mud and you’ll try and spot your pumpkin from 100 metres away.

The tractor drops you off in the middle of the mud field and you’re given directions.

“Pick your pumpkin,” we’re told by the tractor driver before he heads back to pick up the next batch of pumpkiners.

“Any pumpkin?” we ask.

“If you can carry it, it’s yours.”

And then it’s time to get to work.

Leah Reynolds, master pumpkin picker

Should you bring a child with you, be warned that you need to have an explanation ready as to why the pumpkin that just got run over by the tractor isn’t the best pumpkin for jack-o-lantern making. For some reason, children seem drawn to the macabre site of a squashed pumpkin, seeds oozing out around it. One of the many explained mysteries of childhood.

What worked for us was a little bit of parental persuasion (which, while we give ourselves heaps of credit for, isn’t that tough with a not-quite two-year-old).

“Is this the one you picked,” my wife asks my daughter, showing her a pumpkin that we both like. We’re really distracting her long enough for me to carefully drape some vines over the dead-looking pumpkin she had previously wanted.

“Yesh,” she answers in her cute kid voice, looking behind her to ensure that the squashed pumpkin was nothing more than a dream. Victory is ours.

The magic of the pumpkin search sticks with you as you trundle over to the tractor and make your way back to the greeting area where you wait in line with the other pumpkin searchers to pay for your find. You hold on tight to make sure nobody spots how nice yours is and tries to take it from you. Depending on the size of your pumpkin you can pay anywhere between $3 and $10 dollars, but you’re also taking home the hour-plus worth of fun you’ve just had.

What’s more is that Millers’ Farm and Market is open year round, with equally family friendly activities to take part in throughout the seasons. But that’s for another day, right now, we need to go home and sketch the perfect pumpkin face.

Aww, this brings back some great childhood memories, Mike. We can’t wait to see what your carved pumpkins look like. Do any of you have a favourite pumpkin picking place in Ottawa? Let us know (we’re scoping out a place to visit)!