Over the past ten years we've encountered several local customs in the places we have lived that we have embraced and taken as our own family traditions - the children love the routine and the anticipation, so we were delighted to discover that pumpkin picking, an activity that we loved in Socal, is indeed a 'thing' in the South of England these days. Heading out into the field and selecting the perfect pumpkin is much more fun, and much more of a family activity (not to mention more of an opportunity to capture some lovely photographs of my children), than picking one up at the supermarket, so with half term at our disposal we decided to do just that.
There are a few farms around Surrey where you can head to pick out your own pumpkin ready for Halloween. When I was researching the local options I found that Garsons Farm in Esher and Crockford Bridge Farm in Addlestone both had pumpkin patches and were within easy reach of Ashtead. On this occasion, however, I decided that we woiuld head down to Secretts of Milford as it was just down the road from Winkworth Arboretum where I was keen to take a look at the autumn foliage. The visit started with a tractor ride out to the field, which was an added bonus for the children. Once in the field we chose our pumpkins from vast selection of shapes, sizes and varieties, paid the small fee according to size and then jumped on the tractor back to the farm shop and tea rooms.
If you haven't already picked your pumpkins, you've still just about got time, but it turns out it's quite an art form, so here are a few handy hints from our almost two year old to make sure you get your perfect pumpkin!
Firstly, bring a team member along to help you. Preferably an older, bigger one that has much greater lifting power, absolutely vital when your mum makes up rules that withhold you from choosing any squash that you cannot carry yourself.
If you think you spot a suitable specimen, make sure you observe it from all angles. View it with great suspicion and curiosity until you are absolutely sure you are ready to move to the next step.
The great thing about pumpkin patches is that there is usually an abundance of sticks and roots lying around to assist you in your quest. If you are also one year and eleven twelfths you will most likely understand the importance of having sticks available for all everyday activities, but they are especially important when you have some pumpkin prodding to do. So find yourself a perfect poker and make sure that your decision is a sound one.
Next the clamber test - all good pumpkins can withstand a bit of climbing, preferably with a little jump at the end; although that bit is less vital, jumping is always a good addition to any fun day out. Then you can move onto the sit test - obviously, if it doesn't pass a suitable toddler seat then kick it straight to the curb. If you've reached this far it only seems fit that you try a quick aeroplane impersonation to ensure that your pumpkin knows how to have a little fun, toddler boy style.
Now we're doing really well - only a couple more things to check before you can call it a winner and take it home. So on to the tap test - if you can drum out the tune of Peppa Pig using single digits without sticking a finger through the skin then it's still in good form.
If you're getting tired by this stage, I can highly recommend a nap - not only does this replenish your reserves ready for the carry back to the car, but it also gives you the opportunity to check your favourite pumpkin's pillowworthiness.
Now that you've been through all your checks, the only thing left to do is to check back with your team mate to ensure that you are both on the same wavelength. If it turns out that you're not, it pays to take a few minutes to discuss the virtues of each of the samples in question, but keep in mind that older often means wiser, and if they think you may struggle carrying your selection, they are most probably right, so giving in is not wrong.