Today was one of those days where I could not quite catch up with myself. Do you know what I mean? It didn't feel like today was any one day of the week. Eventually, it sunk in that it is Wednesday. I'd run into people I knew, I would recognize them, but my brain could not quite make the connection that I knew them and how I knew them. Like when you go into a store or restaurant and see the co-worker who you never see outside of work. Others that I saw, it felt as if I'd already seen them today and exchanged pleasantries, talked about what we did on Fall Break, etc, which created an awkward staring type contest before my brain could think of what to say. Like 'hello!'. Time was thin today.
However, the day was so spectacular, that day's lack of clarity did not bother me . The summer's heat finally fading to a little less hell like. The morning, with the temps in the 70's, and white, variegated cloud formations in stark contrast to the brilliant blue sky, was incredible. Bella and I ran.
The evening sky was even more breathtaking....
But I digress...
It was the final day of Fall Break. We had decided to make a trip to the pumpkin patch. Kim had created so many traditions and important times for our kids and our family. The pumpkin patch ranked up among the top in importance to Kim.
When she chose where we'd take the kids, she didn't just go to the closest one. Or the most popular one. She looked for the one that offered the best experience - I think, a half a hundred blogs ago, I explained that Kim used the phrase 'Does it have good eyes?' or 'Which one has the best eyes?' for nearly everything that needed some consideration, whether it was purchasing a stuffed animal (where the phrase originated - I had never met anyone that checked several identical looking,at least to me, stuffed animals to determine which one had the best eyes!) or choosing a place for the family to begin or continue a tradition.
When we moved here, that place was Buckelew's, located two or three days drive out Ajo Way, west of Tucson. That is a long road. Buckelew's, at that time, offered many free activities. A hay ride, a corn maze, games. Their pumpkin prices were fair and they had some good food being cooked on site. Cody actually made the 5:00 news the first year we took him, as he clambered through the dense pumpkin vines, precariously balanced, at the age of two. "Searching for the perfect pumpkin!" another Kimism that she liked to incite at each pumpkin patch to the delight of the bambini.
Unfortunately, over the years, Buckalew's became very popular. Now they charge for parking. And an entry fee. And a fee to go in the vaunted corn maze. It'd become a circus. Kim simply looked for a new place for our tradition to continue.
Wilcox was next. This little town, made famous for growing apples by decree of FDR by in the '30s, is about 1 1/2 hours southeast of Tucson. Apple Annie's was already the favorite down there, so we'd make a token appearance there and soon found a family owned farm called LaBella's. They had a petting zoo (with ostriches!), swings, games, etc - all for free. They also had a great selection of pumpkins and other vegetables growing that you could pick and purchase. We got to the know the family living there over the years, so it was nice going back each October to see how much their kids had grown and vice versa. We went there many times over the years...
Choosing the right pumpkin patch meant a lot to Kim. She wanted a place that had character and a 'home made' feel, as opposed to 'mass produced'. Where is was still more about the fun, rather than the money and did not have a 'processed' feel.
I remember when Apple Annie's fell out of this category. As I said, it was always the most popular farm in Wilcox. They have multiple sites and crank out produce. But, the year they decided to renovate and focus on their main farm, disturbed that 'home grown' atmosphere. A brand new, huge, blaring red barn shouts out to visitors pulling into there parking lot. The architecture of this fancy new barn feels about 20 minutes old. Large ramadas, with rows of picnic tables. The wood brand new. And a fleet of shiny, all-terrain wheeled tractors pull the wagon of visitors out in the carefully manicured fields. As soon as Kim got out of the car and saw all of this 'hoopla', she said 'Hm.' And that was that.
Then, 4 or 5 years ago, Kim found Aqua Linda. She loved it for it's 'realness' and lack of commercialness. It's fairly close, just south of Green Valley (watch for golf carts crossing the 19!) and family run. We've always had a great experience there, just what Kimmy envisioned for us.
The tire swings have been an annual hit with the kids. Breanna and Autumn get a little creative in riding double!
There are some huge, ancient mesquites on the property. Perfect for climbing and always a Conca family Kodak moment.
We can never pass up the old 'put your head in the cut out' trick (as seen in yesterday's blog, in which Antonio is magically transformed into a Tucson Padres player!).
Piggy back rides are included!
My pumpkins, on the hay wagon, getting ready to go out into the fields a-pumkin-pickin! Wait, what's this? Cody made the trip? You know, even at 15 this guy is pretty sentimental. Cody knows the pumpkin patch excursion was always one of Kim's favorite times with us. He remembers. And he joined in for all of the activities, even pushing the little ones on the swings!
In search of the 'perfect pumpkin' - Kim's quest!
Cody leads the way through the maze...
I actually got them to stop running long enough to take this group shot.
They have a petting zoo, with violent chickens running around. Love this clip of these guys going in...
Breanna and Tonio finally got comfortable with their new goat friend.
I should have filmed the absolutely mad scramble that ensued when these guys saw the hay pyramid. All four, at some point, lost their footing and either fell or looked like they were in an old comedy movie as they pinwheeled to maintain their balance. But, in the end, they all successfully made it to the top.
Ah yes, more tree shots!
Cody always goes as high as he can...
The donkeys. Kim wanted to 'adopt' one. "Please Dave? Just back the truck up to the fence. No one will notice..." The ones they have there are gray donkeys - almost zebra like. The kids stayed here for a while, I'm sure remembering their Mama's love for donkeys...
Back to the swings, where Cody and Tonio learned something from the girls!
These guys cracked me up, riding around on the little trikes. They played a little demolition derby, too! Cody could really get those things moving!
On the way out to the pumpkin patch. Apparently I'm a bit out of sequence. That's ok, it's kinda how the whole day felt.
As we trekked through the pumpkin patch, I warned the kids of the many dangers lurking. Such as the 'burr'. I'm not sure what they are actually called, but that's what we always named them. They typically attack your ankles, clinging fast to your socks. They are prickly and are challenging to peel off, disintegrating as you pluck at them.
The other, more dangerous predator I alerted them to? The pumpkin snake. Now, these snakes are orange (scientists believe they take on an orange color from eating the pumpkins, much like flamingos are pink because of their shrimp diet), but they are stealthy. The kids promised to keep a sharp lookout, all the while attempting to pull the burrs from their socks. I was not encouraged.
A good way to avoid the snakes, is to stay off the ground. The little ones were very adept at it!
Tonio's sharp eyes spotted a pumpkin snake hole in this pumpkin! We decided to get out of there! Breanna could not lift the pumpkin she had so carefully chosen, so she told us that she was going to kick it out like a soccer ball and preceded to try to do that. After which, I got my workout carrying Breanna's and Tonio's pumpkins.
Riding back, safely, to the main farm (sporting my best Adidas shirt!).
Awwww, no, we did not get to take Brinley to the pumpkin patch with us, but Mary and Emilio had taken her to Agua Linda the day before and sent us this picture...This is what it's all about! Making those lasting memories...soon, Brinley will be anticipating a trip to the pumpkin patch, just as the bambini do every year. This is just a precious photo.
I feel that this adventure was a success. It was made even more fun and special having Breanna join us and to see Agua Linda through her eyes. Each of them added some bit of fun or excitement or had a great line that just made the day.
Speaking of traditions, as we pulled out of the parking lot, the kids, nearly simultaneously asked "Are we going to Circle K?". I guess that is my contribution to the traditions that Kim so lovingly made for us. A 44 oz drink for everyone! Plus, today, they all got snacks for the ride home!! (side note: so nutritious a stop, too. Tonio got a icee and a bag of Doritos. Cody a coke and a bag of Munchos. Breanna and Autumn actually chose water (smart ladies!) and a bag of Cheetos and pumpkin seeds. Me? Dr. Pepper and a bag of Tapitio flavored chips that Lexy and Breanna got me hooked on!).
And some memories of a long ago Agua Linda greatest time...
Still takes my breath away...