“Let me out of here!” Children and adults yelled as they jumped from the hay wagon and scattered into the fields like frightened mice.
As part of our autumn festivities, we invited one hundred guests to share in light-hearted folly as we celebrated our farm’s bounty. The gathering fell on the spookiest night of the year, Halloween.
Guests gathered at a nearby farm where they boarded a creaky hay wagon. Anticipation mounted as the serpentine ride brought them through the foggy, black night and over the backcountry roads eventually arriving at our Harvest Gala. At one point during the hayride, guests were shocked out of their knickers by ghoulish goblins. It was planned that a mummified man would serve them fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, or Count Dracula would drop-in to say, “Good evening!” while flashing a toothy grin.
Our three largest barns were at the end of a long, shadowy gravel driveway. Gnarly old apple trees hovered at the barn’s entrance, but on this dank October evening, the trees provided a haunting hiding place for ghosts, and perhaps a dead body or two…
When the wagon pulled to a squeaky stop at the end of the driveway, “plop, plop” a body, who was also known as Mr. Scarecrow, fell from an overhanging tree limb, scaring the wits out of our unsuspecting guests. Screams rippled through the night air as they scurried to the warmth and safety inside the brightly lit barn.
The barn soon filled with the spirit of autumn as each load of laughing guests arrived. Guests felt in their hearts that they were in a happy place where light Halloween revelry waved through the lofty barn.
“Wow! We thought we were free from ghoulish pranks!” one man chortled, as he sauntered toward the barn where the teenagers were dipping apples into thick, gooey caramel.
The children were enthralled with our oak cider press. The apples were cold, picked after they’d absorbed the crisp bite in the fall air, which produced a bracing mug of sweet frosty cider with fresh apple chunks floating atop.
Many of the adults huddled in the corner near the rusty, two-barreled wood stove breathing in the woodsy fragrance of the fast-burning alder. A brightly colored burro piñata waited in the rafters to shower the children with tiny surprises. When the piñata cracked open, the adults threw coins in with the sweets and trinkets that fell onto the straw-covered floor.
“Look! I found a silver coin…and a chocolate bar!” The children squealed with delight as they gathered their share of the treasures.
A brooder and hen house adjoined the main part of the barn, which served as our haunted house. Menacing black bats were hanging from the ceiling where furry spiders loomed in webs that spanned across the musty room.
The room was dark and murky with air that hung heavy and lifeless. A disfigured witch stirred a cauldron that overflowed with a thick, purplish-green potion. What looked like grapes escaped over the side of the kettle as she moved her staff back and forth through the bubbling brew. Some of the grapes looked alive as they rolled away and disappeared between the slats of the warped floorboards.
This was an eerie gathering place for young and old alike to exchange Halloween lore, and that they did. The scary tales sent goose bumps up our spines and caused neck hairs to bristle like those of mad dogs.
The youngsters and the faint of heart were ready to bolt from the terror when a ghoulish “ha, ha, ha!” cut through their fright. In sharp contrast, the flame of friendship was aglow in a nearby room and it was a comforting reminder to those who were caught-up in the menacing spirits of the night. “That’s right, this is all in fun. I’m among friends!” They whispered to reassure themselves.
As the last story ended, the witch began serving portions of the ghastly concoction. “Just close your eyes and pretend you’re eating sweet juicy grapes that add to the flavor of a mouthwatering salad!” she cooed. Then she added in a cutting shrill, “Don’t be afraid, darlings, you’re just eating grape salad.”
Ghoulishly Good Grape Salad
1 1/2 pounds seedless grapes, Use a combination of green, red and black grapes to look like “eyeballs” or all green to convey a more grotesque “What am I eating?” feel.
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1-cup sour cream
1/2 cup nuts, chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup nuts, chopped
Wash grapes and remove from stems; dry grapes thoroughly with paper towels and place in large mixing bowl. Mix sour cream and 1/2 cup brown sugar together in a medium size bowl; add nuts. Pour sour cream mixture over grapes and gently stir to coat grapes. Garnish with 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 cup nuts, if desired.
Yield: 6 servings