Childish anticipation aside, autumnal pastimes are just generally delightful. For example, the fast approaching season makes violently butchering gourds and squash socially acceptable! Also, in a few weeks, you will be able to buy and ingest ungodly amounts of orange-hued candies and local pumpkin-spiced consumables.
One local, autumn hot spot that sells seasonal treats and hosts myriad fun activities is the Louisburg Cider Mill & Country Store (14730 K68 Highway, 913-837-5202).
We recently spoke with Shelly Schierman, one of the mill owners, and asked her how the mill's pumpkin, corn and apple crops have faired during this dry summer, and about the new fall festivities the mill has planned for this year.
The Pitch: Has the drought affected the corn maze and pumpkin patch?
Shelly Schierman: Well, we kind of lucked out. I don't know exactly why. We always plant our corn a little later than, say, a farmer. And we don't really care about ears of corn. I mean, it's nice if you make ears of corn, but we're really more concerned with height. And it was a little scary there. We're like, Oh, it's 12 inches tall,' and then we got that 2-inch rain. It seems like ages ago. It grew, like, 4 feet in four days. So, it's nice and tall. It's probably about 6 feet 4 inches. So it's plenty tall. And I went out there a couple days ago, and there are a few ears of corn.
And then, the pumpkins. Well, we've drained our ponds. The runners are starting, and the pumpkins are there, but again, we plant later. Because if you plant pumpkins when you can, you're going to have pumpkins probably by the first of September. It's not going to be a bumper crop, but there will be a decent crop. But like I said, though, we drained our ponds doing it.
Are the apples OK?
For the first time in a while, we've got a decent apple crop, but because the whole [Northeast], New York, Michigan got completely wiped out — I mean they've got maybe 10 percent of their crop, which puts the pressure on the guys around here. So it's kind of like the perfect storm. That was all caused pretty much by the same thing — that warm spring. I mean, they [the apples] started to bud out, and the further north you were, of course, the more in danger you were. They got bit!
Anything new going on eventwise this year?
As far as just events and such, I guess everything is pretty much status quo. We're opening up the pumpkin patch and corn maze on September 14, and that will run until Halloween. And that Friday for us is always the last weekend, which pushes it kind of late. I mean, it's as late as it can be. That's because of the way the weekends fall, which is fine because with this heat, I don't know how many people are going to get into the fall spirit.
Anything new going on with the corn maze this year?
My daughter is raring to go. We've got three daughters, and our middle daughter who actually, she has to live in Denver, she runs the corn maze, pumpkin patch for us and commutes, believe it or not. She works it out with her employer. She explains she's going to be gone every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So she's excited. She's planned a few new things.
How was last year's season?
We had a fabulous season last year. I think it was a combination [of things]. It was probably the leading edge of the drought. I know it didn't rain once on a weekend and very seldom would it even rain during the week, [which] for us is huge. But this year, I would say I'd take rain over business.
Going forward, are there any plans that you guys might make or change in the future?
Fortunately, about four or five years ago, we invested in a really nice irrigational system. So probably, if we did anything, it would be to dig a couple [more ponds]. We've got three or four ponds on the place — we've got 80 acres here — and it would probably be figure out how to store more water, you know, when it does rain, which surely it will rain again someday.
Louisburg fall activities:
Ciderfest: September 29-30 and October 6-7.
The pumpkin patch and 2012 corn maze, “'Corn-Evil-A’ the (just a little bit) Evil Witch,” open September 14, through October 31.
Pumpkin patch and corn maze hours:
Monday-Thursday, groups by appointment only.
Fridays and Saturdays: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sundays: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Groups of 15 or more by appointment only, Monday-Thursday. Call 913-232-6383. Admission is $8; children 3 and younger are free.