As the brisk chill of fall replaces the last of summer’s heat, New Englanders once again scramble to make the most out of their favorite time of year. Between socially-distanced pumpkin picking and cancelled Halloween parties, COVID-19 caused 2020’s harvest season to lack the fun and festivity that Nutmegers are accustomed to. A year and a half of quarantine created a different kind of virus: cabin fever. College students, homebodies, and workaholics alike remain hunched over zoom meetings day in and day out while the world descends into chaos.
Therefore, Blue Muse went on a quest to find a cure for the indoor jitters.
Lyman Orchards started on thirty-seven acres purchased 280 years ago by farmer John Lyman. Thanks to years of dedication and love for the land, Lyman’s homestead has turned humble beginnings into a modern farm and entertainment destination that doubles as one of Connecticut’s most important historical sites. In Middlefield, it now boasts over 1,000 square acres of exciting seasonal activities for all ages. Though open for business year-round, the best time to visit is right around now, when the trees are just starting to turn.
The farm boasts orchards for various fruits, a corn maze, farm market, and special events throughout the year. Deciding where to start your visit is a little overwhelming. However, Lyman Orchards’ Executive Vice President and descendant of the original John Lyman, John Lyman III, suggests you just start picking. “We lead with our promotion and advertising this time of year with Pick Your Own. That’s kinda the appeal and also what makes it a little unique.” He adds, “Not only the experience of being outside, but also the fact that you’re bringing home something tangible.”
Drive up, buy a bag, pick your own, and bring it home. Seems like the perfect antidote to COVID blues. At the massive orchard surrounding 105 South Street, colorful rows of apple trees sporting Honeycrisp, Macintosh, and Gala stretch on forever and seem to bend under the weight of their loads. Surrounding them are groves of peaches, familiar pears like Bartlett and Bosc, as well as several varieties of specialty Asian pears. Beyond the orchard itself is an expanse of rolling green hills not unlike Vermont’s countryside. Fallen fruits give off a rich, sweet aroma as they ferment on the ground. Even the local critters can’t resist as honeybees swarm to taste the intoxicating juices. It’s easy to lose track of time while roaming the aisles of fruit, drunk on the warm sunshine, cool breeze, and picture-perfect scenery, but once the bag is filled, it’s time to move on to the next spot— the Apple Barrel Farm Market.
“From the orchard people can come to the store, they can do their shopping,” Lyman says. “You know, a lot of people have their favorites whether it be the donuts or whether it be the pies.”
A warning: Don’t come into the market if you’re on a diet. The circular, nearly flat-roofed building is sage green and flanked by a patio with dozens of picnic tables. Guests are encouraged to sit and enjoy their meal beside the nearby duck pond. Inside, guests are hit with both sweet and savory scents wafting across the wood floor. They can feast their eyes on a dizzying assortment of frozen house-made pot pies and maple bacon mustard, pumpkin scone mix and jostaberry jam. New guests might want to start with the classic apple cider donuts. Moist, cakey bliss rolled in spiced sugar will pull anyone out of a COVID funk.
After feasting on donuts, there still might be time for a stroll through Lyman Orchards’ famous corn maze. Getting lost among the ears is a great way to squeeze in some exercise after food, and an even greater way to give back to the local community. Lyman explains, “When we started with the maze in 2000, we decided we’re going to donate one dollar of every ticket sold to the American Cancer Society— they have a great network, grassroots organizations throughout the state. We’ve raised over $650,000 which is pretty incredible.” Feel good about stretching your legs, and feel good about donating to wonderful causes. The corn maze is far from Lyman’s only avenue for charity. A portion of the proceeds from many of their special events are also donated. Evidence of Evil, an interactive Halloween attraction, will be held at Lyman’s throughout October to generate funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Additionally, this October, they will host Paint the Pumpkin Pink— a fun afternoon for the kids as well as a fundraiser for the Middlesex Health Cancer Center’s Comprehensive Breast Center. As if guests need any more incentive to get out and enjoy autumn at Lyman Orchards, spreading some kindness through donation is definitely the cherry (or apple) on top.
Over time, John Lyman’s budding family plot has blossomed into one of New England’s most popular seasonal destinations. Locals should visit this fall for a potent cure for cabin fever.
Samantha Shaner is a Staff Writer for the Blue Muse Magazine.
Header Photo Credit: Samantha Shaner