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By Chelsea Murray Kaneb

Four adults, five children ages five and under, one giant corn maze, a gorgeous October weekend and the most delicious apple fritter we’ve ever stuffed in our faces as a reward when we finally made it out in one piece. Not an activity for the faint of heart, but highly recommended to pop onto the autumnal bucket list.

Lyman Orchards is an impressive farm that has been nestled in a beautiful spot in Middlefield, CT (not far from Middletown and Cheshire), farming the land and providing countless hours of joy for 275 years. It has been ranked many times as the best place to pick apples in Connecticut, especially this year with acres of gorgeous apple trees bursting with what they excitedly exclaim to be one of the best crops not just in years, but EVER.

Enjoying this Autumn’s bounty of apples.

Apple season is in full swing and celebrating apples and apple picking is arguably one of the most American activities out there and helps usher in the autumn and holiday season to come. Bust out those sweaters and boots, get cozy, grab a hot cider, meander through the trees gathering a bushel or perhaps a peck of apples and then take them home to create some delicious treats of your own. I’ll post the apple butter recipe that we experimented with this year at the end, it’s a perfect marriage of tart and sweet and can be added to morning oats, yogurt bowls, drizzled on ice cream, on toast or straight out of the jar for a little snack.

I’d driven by Lyman Orchards many times over the years, but finally added it to our Fall Activity bucket list and I’m so glad we did despite the throngs of people who had a similar idea on one of the busiest and most beautiful autumn weekends of the season. The kids had tons of activities to explore such as a horse drawn hayride, a petting zoo that stole my daughter’s attention for over an hour…I mean who could blame her – farm animals are often better than people, apple picking, visiting the farm store and surviving their giant corn maze.

What felt like a year in the maze actually took us 48 minutes, they told us the average time in the maze is 30-40 minutes, so we weren’t as desperate for rescue as I thought. The “1970s Rock ‘n Roll” themed maze is the 22nd one created at Lyman Orchard. We got turned around inside of a guitar and went around and round inside of some of the letters spelling Rock and Roll as we chased our 5 year old guides, and laughed for a mile of paths spread across a four acre corn field.

A maze from a previous year at Lyman Orchards.

We received a sticker that says “I Survived the Maze” and I will proudly display it on my water bottle as a badge of honor until it fades away. The bigger reward though as we emerged from the maze (besides seeing the alpacas again) was the promise of fresh baked goodies from the farm store. The line was long, but moved quickly to make our way into the Apple Barrel farm market to scoop up some delicious treats including the aforementioned incredible apple fritter, freshly baked apple cider donuts and an assortment of other goodies.

It feels like a million years ago that we busted out of our post-baby quarantine/postpartum haze, totting our newborn around March Farm in Bethlehem, taking some corny family photos of picking apples, and getting pumpkins and cider from Hogan’s Cider Mill in Burlington, but that was one whole year ago.

The first year of parenthood has gone by at a snail’s pace, and a blink of an eye, in the same breath and now we have a toddling little creature along for the adventures with us.

We’re thankful for celebrating the season and creating traditions like apple picking and baking, pumpkin gathering and carving, boot wearing and pumpkin spice ingesting, visiting fairs and festivals, exploring a corn maze, going on leaf peeping hikes, obviously watching Hocus Pocus at least ten times, creating family costumes, celebrating the spookier side of the season, and eventually we’ll get our annual Halloween bash back on the books.

We’re also grateful for the traditions to help welcome the change of seasons and keep time in check to sink our teeth into the moments as well as some apple-baked goods.

Do you have a Fall Bucket List? Here are a few other family friendly events and recommendations happening in the local area that may add some pumpkin spice into your upcoming autumn plans.

Halloween displays are sprinkled throughout Greater Waterbury.

  • Lyman Orchards Corn Maze in Middlefield, CT is open Monday-Friday 1-5:30 PM and Saturday, Sunday and Holidays 10 AM-5:30 PM until November 7th. Tickets are $10 for ages 13 and older, $6 for ages 4-12, and free for ages 3 and under.
  • Scarecrows in the Meadow on Display at Tapping Reeve Meadow in Litchfield located at 82 South St, Litchfield, CT 06759. More than fifty scarecrows, all created by local businesses, non-profits and families will be on display from October 16- October 31st. Visitors can vote on their favorite scarecrows while enjoying self-guided fall crafts and games. Admission is free and the meadow is open from dawn until dusk.
  • The 16th Annual Mardi Gross at the Silas Bronson Library in Waterbury, CT on October 29th from 11 AM-4 PM. Dress up and complete a trick-or-treat puzzle around town starting and ending at the library, munch on some candy, view a magic show, get some free comic books and do some fun Halloween crafts.
  • Torrington Jack-o-Lantern Jubilee in Torrington, CT- Downtown Torrington will be a glow with carved pumpkins on Friday October 29 from 4-7 PM. Check out Franklin Plaza for pumpkin activities, vendor fair, pet parade and more.
  • The 27th Annual Collinsville Halloween Parade will take place on Saturday October 30th on Main Street in Collinsville. People are encouraged to gather beginning at 6 PM and the main street will close to traffic, but will be open to all who wish to join the parade. According to the Collinsville Halloween website the candy will flow and the Halloween magic will take over at 7 PM as the parade ritual begins. In year’s past, Collinsville has been said to be the best place to celebrate Halloween in Connecticut.

Some places to pick a pumpkin or apples in the area (some may be a little drive, but it gives you a chance to take in the autumn colors bursting around you):

Bunnell Farm in Litchfield, CT

March Farm in Bethlehem, CT

Angevine Farm in Warren CT

Ruwett Berry Scary Acres in Torrington, CT

Rogers Orchards in Southington, CT

Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor, CT

Lyman Orchards in Middlefield CT

Castle Hill Farm in Newtown CT

Blue Jay Orchards in Bethel, CT

Pumpkintown, USA in East Hampton, CT (https://www.pumpkintown.com)

Flamig Farm in Simsbury, CT (https://flamigfarm.com)

Stove-top Apple Butter Recipe

*5 medium locally picked apples, cored and chopped (no need to peel)

*1/2 teaspoon salt

*2 tablespoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

*2 teaspoons of ground Ceylon cinnamon

*1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg

*1/4 teaspoon All Spice

*1/4 cup pure local maple syrup to avoid processed sugar

*A few tablespoons of water

*Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer on stovetop on low heat for 2+ hours or until everything is mushy and your home smells like autumnal heaven.

*Let the mixture cool a bit and then either blend together in a blender or with an immersion blender (I personally used this and felt it was a better way to get all the chunks blended up semi-by hand).

*Pour into mason jar or jars and store covered in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Happy Fall Y’all! Enjoy!

(Chelsea Murray Kaneb is a columnist at The Waterbury Observer, and in one job or another, has been contributing to her family’s newspaper since 1993 when she was five years old)