This weekend we checked out the popular Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, one of the few pumpkin patches actually located in Marin County. This certified organic pumpkin patch, located in the small west Marin village of Nicasio, is located just west of the Nicasio village square right on Nicasio Valley Road. Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch is open seven days a week through Halloween from 10 am to 6 pm, and it's definitely worth a visit this season.
Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers a wide variety of certified organic pumpkins spread out in an expansive meadow on the farm. Although in previous visits we noticed pumpkins being grown on-site, we didn't see any this year. Pumpkin varieties ranged from your standard Halloween jack-o-lantern types to white ones, green ones, and flat European "Cinderella" style squash. The farmstand also offers of gourds, squash, decorative cornstalks, apples, and other organic vegetables, as well as drinks and snacks.
Like many Halloween pumpkin patches, Nicasio Valley Farms offers the obligatory jumpy house and inflatable slide, which cost $2 and $1, respectively; a discount book of 20 tickets is available, too. There are also hay rides through the fields ($3 per person), pony rides from Victoria's Fashion Stables ($6), a petting zoo ($3), and some farm animals for children to visit.
Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin interior designer Hilary Sessions of Quarry Hill Design.
The kids are finally back in school and fall is here. Leaves, pumpkins, football and little ghosts and goblins will soon appear. This is a great time to spruce up your home for entertaining friends and family.
I often work with clients to see how we can make their homes more livable. Sometimes it is as simple as purging, organizing and reconfiguring furnishings. I recommend investing in good storage solutions, quality furnishings and well-edited accessories to complete the look. Here are a few ways to make your space feel more like home.
A set of matching baskets or storage bins is a great way to manage clutter.
Late summer marks the start of apple season, and plenty of the tasty and popular fruits can be found in the North Bay, especially in the area around Sebastopol in western Sonoma County, which is famous for its Gravenstein apples. Even more fun than eating and cooking with apples is heading out into an orchard and picking your own!
If you're not lucky enough to have an apple tree growing in your backyard, then head up to one of the local apple farms that offers a u-pick experience. It's a fun family outing, and prices and quality are usually bettter than you'll find in the supermarket. There's nothing quite like an afternoon on the farm, too.
Apple season begins in late July or August with local favorite Gravensteins, and continues through the late summer and fall with varieties like Golden Delicious (September and October), Granny Smith (October and November), and Fuji (October through December).
Twin Hill Ranch outside of Sebastopol has been a favorite place for school and family outings for over 60 years. They offer u-pick for apples Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. Check in at the ranch's store to pick up your baskets and learn about the different varieties of apples available, and then head out into the orchards to pick your fruit. You'll find several varieties including Gravenstein, Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith. Twin Hill Ranch is not certified organic but their apples are grown pesticide-free.
U-pick season runs from August throughout the fall, until the apples are all gone. The cost for u-pick apples here is $1 per pound; you can pay with cash or credit card. The country store at Twin Hill Ranch also offers goodies like apple bread (our favorite), fresh apple juice, pies, cookies, jams, and jellies. There's also a picnic area with a spacious lawn.
Chileno Valley Ranch grows organic apples—all of which are blind taste test winners—and provides them to local markets like Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station and the Organic Farmstead at the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross. You can visit the ranch for u-pick from Labor Day weekend through the month of October. Varieties include Orin, Pinova, Molly's Delicious, and Jonathan's Pride.
U-pick takes place on Sundays only from 10 am to 4 pm, and apples cost $2 per pound. Make sure you call ahead before you go: (707) 765-6664. They also raise grass-fed beef on the ranch.
Gabriel Farm is a family-run, certified organic farm in Graton, just north of Sebastopol. They grow a variety of apples including Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Gala, Rome Beauty, Fuji, and McIntosh. This season they're making u-pick an activity for their CSA members only; you can join at the farm by purchasing a membership. A share consists of a case (6 half-gallon bottles) of their Asian pear juice ($35). U-pick takes place on weekends from 11 am to 4 pm or weekdays by appointment.
Every year at the end of summer we head up to western Sonoma County in search of ripe apples to pick. Apple-picking season in the Bay Area starts in late July or August and runs throughout the fall. Local favorite Gravensteins kick off the season, and you can work your way through Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome, Braeburn, Fuji, and other varieties over the fall. This is one of my favorite things to do in August, and we always end up with plenty of apples for making things like apple pie, apple crisp, and apple sauce, and of course including in school lunches, too.
Last weekend we visited Twin Hill Ranch outside of Sebastopol to pick apples. You might be familar with Twin Hill Ranch from the holiday season, when they're a destination for Christmas crafts and holiday goodies. You can, of course, visit them at any time of year, and apple-picking season is a great time to do so. Right now, they still have Gravensteins available for u-pick, as well as Golden Delicious, and Pink Ladies.
Twin Hill Ranch has been around for over 60 years, and their apples, while not certified organic, are grown without pesticides. The ranch is an active apple processing and packing facility, and their country store share space with conveyor belts, crates, refrigerators, and other equipment. They're also set up to welcome visitors, though, with a picnic area and a large lawn where kids can run and play.
Creating colorful leaf prints is one of my children's favorite simple fall craft projects. We love to take advantage of Marin's great fall weather and go on hikes and walks at this time of year. Along the way, the kids collect interesting autumn leaves, which we bring home to use as decorations and to make leaf prints.
Making leaf prints is an easy project that kids of all ages can do, and the results can be really beautiful. To make them you’ll need:
Leaves of different shapes and sizes
Lay out a sheet of paper and place a leaf on it, then set another sheet of paper over the leaf (or leaves—you can use more than one). Peel the wrapper off a crayon and rub the side of it over the top sheet of paper. The leaves below will magically appear!