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Still a long way to go…

My wife will tell you that I have long been a fan of cheap dates that involve taking her with me when I do story interviews that she would find interesting. Thus, it has been tradition that around our September wedding anniversary to do this.

This year, our cheap date tradition had a slightly different spin — our two children. We had also planned a work weekend at my family’s Christmas tree farm and decided we would go straight from the NE Ohio story interviews to our NW Ohio farm, which required that we bring the children. Though this was not quite ideal, the Pine Tree Barn, Moreland Fruit Farm, and Gervasi Vineyard all have great outdoor spaces where the kids could run around. The trip had all the makings of a fun family adventure and a cheap date.

We left at 7:45 a.m. and it didn’t take long for us to grow concerned about the uncooperative weather. Cold winds blew and there was a heavy drizzle that did not bode well. We hoped that it would clear up. It didn’t.

Roger Dush, the owner of the beautiful Pine Tree Barn farm, took my kids on a tour including this "Pine Tree Express" that he uses to haul customers to his choose-and-cut Christmas tree fields during the sales season.

Fortunately, the Pine Tree Barn’s top-notch gift shop had a great area for kids to play, featuring a train set that my son quickly grew to love. And, Roger Dush, the owner of the farm, was very gracious to let my kids play on his tractors on a brief (and soggy) outdoor tour of the beautiful farm. We then dined at the farm’s quaint restaurant, The Granary, and, aside from a catastrophic hot cocoa spill that engulfed much of the table, the kids did fairly well and the food was delicious.

The visit to Moreland Fruit Farm also went well. My wife and children picked apples, visited the gift shop and even helped the staff with a few jobs in the market on the farm. The drizzle outside was not enough to keep them from running around a bit.

With hopes of the children taking naps on the hour drive to Canton, and Gervasi Vineyard, we loaded up and headed east. There were no naps, but plenty of discontent from the children, who had clearly been in the car too long. To worsen the situation, the rains picked up and any hopes of the children playing outside at the next stop quickly diminished.

Even for a seasoned writer, the grandeur and beauty of Gervasi Vineyards is hard to put into words. It is impressive in every sense of the word, but not exactly an ideal spot for children during a downpour. While I took photos and conducted the interview, my wife waited in the car with our two tired, restless children. I returned to the car to find that the situation was grim. My son had cried and been blatantly defiant for the bulk of my absence, there was an impromptu potty break and many tears shed. The screaming kids were nearly crawling out of their skin and my wife was not pleased with the situation or the fact that she only got to see the outside of the impressive vineyard buildings.

We now faced another 2.5-hour trip to the Christmas tree farm — still a very long way to go. It is this point of the trip that I most closely liken the current status of the 2011 growing season. It has been a long, tough journey thus far, but in many ways the challenges are just getting started. There is potential for stalk lodging, ear molds, high drying costs, wet fields, soil compaction problems, and all of the other rigors associated with what will likely be a long, drawn out and unpleasant harvest season.

We will help you through the tough harvest by keep you up to date on the issue you need to know about through the course of the fall (and maybe this winter). Just remember to not cut corners on safety and be sure to take an occasional break throughout the fall to read the feature stories from my very long “cheap date” anniversary celebration that my wife and I will not be forgetting any time soon.

With the sun finally making an appearance, combines will be rolling soon. Please have a safe harvest season.

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