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FROM GENTLEMEN’S FARM TO FAMILY DESTINATION

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by Lynn Schmeidler

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October means pumpkins and colored leaves and tractor parties — particularly at Muscoot Farm, located on Route 100 South in Somers. Part of the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation system, Muscoot Farm is a 777-acre educational farm open to the public. If you are looking for a spot to enjoy the fall foliage and enjoy stepping into a simpler time, plan a trip to Muscoot this fall.

With lots to offer the under-8 set, Muscoot boasts poultry and livestock representing the typical inhabitants of a country gentleman’s farm of the 1880s to the 1950s. Although some of the animals look sweet enough to hug (newly hatched chicks and a female foal come to mind), neither petting nor feeding is allowed.

Still, there is plenty to keep young and old occupied — like listening to the persistent moos of the large Holstein cow, searching for the dark snout of the Tamworth pig in the mud puddle of the pigpen, and watching the pigmy goats butt horns playfully in the sun. Also home to ponies, donkeys, and turkeys, each animal house at Muscoot is posted with information regarding its breed (often old and rare) and interesting facts about the animal. Did you know, for instance, that a female donkey is called a jenny, and a male is a jack? Or that, despite their penchant for wallowing in mud, pigs are very clean and always keep their toilet far from their living space?

Except for a refreshment stand open from April to the end of October, all the buildings at Muscoot represent typical agricultural structures found in old Westchester. The elegant Main House, built by the Hopkins family in the mid 1880s, was kept up by two housekeepers and a cook and was the family’s living quarters when they originally used the property as a summer retreat. After the house was updated with plumbing and electricity in the 1910s, the family began to use it year round. Today, the colonial revival mansion is used as a gallery, housing monthly art shows from May through October and is open on weekends from 12-4pm. This month’s artist is the watercolorist, Waltra Maurer. The main house is closed during the winter to protect the floors, which are the original black walnut harvested on the farm.

The outer farm buildings include dairy barns, milk house, brooder, pig house, turkey house, blacksmith shop, bullpen, storage barns, stables and a carriage house, all restored with tin shingle or slate roofs and plaques explaining their history. The farm is set on the edge of a wood with public hiking trails, and there are two outside areas with picnic tables waiting for the well-prepared family’s feast.

On a recent visit, my 5-year-old son led me by the arm to the perfect vantage point between two dark red barns to admire a pasture dotted with horses before a distant wooded hill. If Muscoot doesn’t make your children want to live on their own farm, it may just turn them into landscape painters.

 

October events at Muscoot:

October 12-14 is Pumpkin Pickin’, the annual fundraiser for the Friends of Muscoot Farm, where, over the course of three days, thousands of visitors come for $2 hayrides and to pick and purchase their Halloween pumpkins. Events run noon to 3pm each day.

October 20 is Autumn Fest with vendors and children’s activities and entertainment provided by the Wicker’s Creek Band. Events run 11am to 3pm. and are free.

October 27 is the annual Halloween Frolic and Antique Tractor Show. From 11am to 3pm there will be hayrides, a Children’s Boo Walk (a non-scary scavenger hunt with a lollipop treat at the end), and a farm tractor party. No registration is required, and events are free.

 

November events at the farm include Moo! Baa! And Oink! programs for 3- to 5-year-olds, and a Pre-K Harvest Happening. Registration is required. For other events and more information, call (914) 864-7284.

If you can’t make any of the big events, hayrides are available every Sunday in spring and fall from 1-3pm. Birthday parties are also available Saturday mornings by reservation. For more information, call (914) 864-7282

And (for those who really think ahead), if you enjoy what you see and do at the farm, Muscoot runs Young Farmers, a summer camp program where children in grades 3-8 learn to milk cows by hand, gather eggs, and groom sheep, cows and calves. Mark your calendars. Registration is the first Saturday in February.

Muscoot Farm is open daily from 10am-4pm. Admission is free.

 


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