Fall is the season of harvest. Whether you take a trip to the pumpkin patch, go to the local farmers’ market for produce, pluck grapes from the vineyard, or enjoy a family outing to the apple orchard, you’ll find bountiful crops – pumpkins, apples, corn, grapes. Yes, the season is changing, and it’s time to celebrate with food, fun, and fellowship. The activities suggested below will help your group enjoy the simple pleasures of the autumn harvest.
- HARVEST DISCUSSION: Define harvest and suggest some synonyms – gather, collect, reap, pick, bring in. Name some fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds of the fall harvest. (Examples: apples, pumpkins, grapes, yams, cranberries, corn, wheat, sunflower seeds, pecans) Make a harvest time collage or assemble an autumn cornucopia – or horn of plenty.
- HARVEST MOON: Discuss the significance of the Full Harvest Moon, using information from the Farmers’ Almanac. Sing a seasonal song, “Shine On, Harvest Moon.” Read the poem “The Harvest Moon” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Ask your group to talk about the ‘splendor’ of the harvest moon, according to the poet.
- FARM REMINISCENCE: Reminisce about life on the family farm during harvest season. Talk about threshing grain crops, such as wheat, oats, barley. Compare modern-day machine threshing versus hand threshing with tools such as scythes, sickles, pitchforks, hand cradles, flails, and winnowing trays. Learn how to weave wheat stalks for decorations. Sing the old hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves.”
- FOOD: Savor the flavor of seasonal foods: apples, pears, grapes. Challenge your group to name fall fruits/vegetables, grains, nuts by color. (Examples: red/green/yellow apples, purple grapes, orange pumpkins, red cranberries, yellow corn, brown hickory nuts, gold wheat grains) Ask participants how to make seasonal dishes such as cornmeal mush, apple Brown Betty, buckwheat cakes, grape conserve, cranberry relish, pumpkin custard.
- SPIRITUAL: Read and discuss Genesis 8:22 from the Bible (“seedtime and harvest”). Sing hymns related to the harvest: “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” “Now Thank We All Our God,” “We Gather Together,” and “Praise and Thanksgiving.”
- FESTIVAL ACTIVITY: Reminisce about harvest hoedowns or barn dances. Hold a simple fall harvest party with country/bluegrass music and square dancing demonstrations. Listen to episodes of the old-time radio program, Grand Ole Opry. Invite a fiddler or banjo player to entertain the group. Dress in Western garb.
- HONEY ACTIVITY: Invite a local beekeeper to talk about harvesting fall honey. Discuss the meaning of “honey” and “bee” idioms and sayings: sweet as honey, the land of milk and honey, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, the birds and the bees, queen bee, busy as a bee. Share old folk remedies for using honey. Sample some apple honey muffins.
- CORN: Show a picture of a field of ripe corn. Talk about growing/harvesting different types of corn such as field, sweet, Indian, and popcorn. Read the poem “Laughing Corn” by Carl Sandburg and share a favorite line or image (ex: ‘high majestic fooling’). Share memories of state/local corn husking contests.
- APPLES: Read the poem “The Old Apple Tree” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Ask: Did your grandmother or mother have an old apple tree in the backyard? What do you remember about it? Was it ‘gnarled’ and ‘crooked’ like the one in the poem? Name some things you can do under an old apple tree (ex: sing, sit in the shade, read a book, climb and pick apples). Suggest ways to use apples, both fresh and processed. Serve apple-cider donuts.
- CANNING FOOD: Gather props, such as a collection of Ball Blue books, jars of colorful fruits and vegetables, jelly strainer, pressure cooker, crocks, food grinder. Show a vintage photo of ladies canning food. Ask: Did you ever can food with your mother or grandmother? What do you remember about the experience? Did you can your own produce, or did you buy food for canning? Which fruits and vegetables can well? How does a pressure cooker work? What is the process to can food? Where did you store your canned goods when you were finished?
- SEEDS: Distribute pumpkins, scoop out the seeds, toast them, and feed the birds. Or, dry sunflower seeds for feathered friends.
- AUTUMN: Read aloud the poem titled “The Months” (also known as “A Calendar”) by Sara Coleridge. The childhood poem, which begins with ‘January brings…,’ was published in 1834. Find out which months bring ‘sheaves of corn,’ ‘the fruit,’ and ‘the pheasant.’ Ask group members to share images from their favorite month of the year.
- SEASONAL CRAFTS: Make a harvest quilt wall hanging or a stuffed pumpkin table decoration. Or, make a simple pumpkin necklace or clay pot turkey.
- BREAD: Share fun facts about bread. Invite someone with a bread machine to make bread, using an old-time recipe. Enjoy the smell, taste, and texture of the freshly-baked bread. Add some favorite jam or jelly.
- FALL HARVEST: Talk about places to store the fall harvest and what you might keep in each place. (Examples: old barn, smoke house, root cellar, dark basement, pantry, freezer)
HARVEST SEASON TRIVIA QUIZ
- Name a variety of apple that begins with the letter ‘S.’ Stayman
- Acorns fall from what type of tree? Oak
- What is the name of a pumpkin in which a face has been carved? Jack-o-lantern
- Which state produces the most grapes? California
- What is the place where cranberries are grown? Bog
- Bartlett, Comice, Bosc, and Anjou are varieties of which fruit? Pear
- What is the name of the very large flower that produces edible seeds? Sunflower
- Name some kinds of root vegetables. Carrot, potato, beet, parsnip, turnip, sweet potato
- What is hominy? Corn kernels that have had the hull and germ removed
- What’s the difference between hay and straw? Hay is dried grass used for food; straw is dried stalks of grain used for bedding and mulching.
THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
“HARVEST TIME” written by Sue Hansen. © 2013 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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