Pick pumpkins, pet animals, play outdoors

Nothing says autumn like a well-groomed pumpkin patch. When the calendar turns to October, I always go looking for a place to pick up a few jack-o-lanterns to be.

This year my family discovered Pigeon Roost Farm, along Rt. 40 in Hebron, Ohio. Seeing my 2-year-old daughter’s face light up as she wandered among the pumpkins and frolicked at the farm’s extensive playground assured me we had hit upon a gem.

The 80-acre farm, located at 4413 National Road SW, offers a cornucopia of fall delights that draws nearly 35,000 visitors a year. Most pumpkins cost 35 cents a pound. You can pick your own in the field or select a pre-picked specimen or two. Just stack them in one of the many provided self-serve wagons, which doubled as a stroller for Rosie.

Ralph and Janice Jutte run the farm. They opened it to the public in 1980 to teach their children to work hard. Back then the business was a self-serve melon stand positioned under a tree. They later named it Pigeon Roost after the carrier pigeons that frequented the area in the past.

“It’s our intent to provide a positive farm experience and give younger generations an opportunity to spend time on a working farm,” Ralph said.

The farm has a bounty of beautifully displayed pumpkins, gourds and squash, straw bales and corn shocks. There’s an old barn full of crafts for sale, and another offers creepy toys including bloody fingers, plastic vampire fangs and rubber bugs. Other items for sale include honey, bath products and a variety of snacks.

There are lots of friendly animals at the farm, including goats, chickens, rabbits, sheep, turkeys, peacocks and even camels. We chuckled at Billy Goat Hill, a raised wooden plank where about a dozen goats jostle for position. I did have a brief run-in with Martha the pigeon, the patch’s mascot, who briefly mistook me for a roost. But I survived.

We were very pleased with the accommodations for children. At the top of that list was the Great Pumpkin Fun Center, a playground with more than a dozen attractions, including a corn maze, a hay tunnel, a pick-your-own pumpkin patch and two side-by-side slides that follow the grade of a hill. Admission to the playground is $6, free for those under 2 years old.

Pigeon Roost is open daily from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., from September through November. There’s a $3 charge for weekend hayrides. We visited on a Monday, when business was brisk but the farm wasn’t too busy. We can’t wait to return.

For more information, visit www.pigeonroostfarm.com.