As the harvest season comes to an end, my husband, Duane, is always in a hurry to get all the equipment cleaned up and put away. Sunday, late afternoon, he called to say he was heading home with the combine and the grain buggy. He had called one of our helpers, Seth Grto, to be ready to blow off the dust and start pressure washing before it got dark.
    This past week with temperatures in the 70s, I have had people calling to see if they could visit our farm. Families that have been cooped up needing to get some fresh air and do some family time before the weather switches back to its normal, chilly, autumn days.
    The folks that have been visiting have been from all over. Many from Chicago, Milwaukee and the surrounding Madison area, but some cruising around Wisconsin with extended summer vacation due to COVID-19. All are interested in seeing cows, tractors, calves and spending time together while the sun is out.
    In a normal year, my brother-in-law, Darrell, calls me as he is heading back to the farm with the Quad-track to ask if he can disc under the left-over pumpkins. Not this year. With all of the visitors still trickling in, we are letting them get pumpkins.
    These are not normal jack-o-lantern pumpkins, these are sweet sugar pie pumpkins. That has been all we have grown for many years. They are the perfect size for the school children to carry, and they are amazing to eat. These cute little pumpkins will last for many months, and they are so easy to cook and freeze.
    Every family and group that have visited have been eager to take home pumpkins, even if they have never tried to cook them before. Now they have time. Cooking together, baking with children, making pies, muffins, cookies, breads, soups and pumpkin seeds are all on their activity list after their farm visit.
    They ask how do you cook this pumpkin? It is so simple. Cut them in halves, scoop out the seeds, steam them in the microwave or roast in your oven. The pulp can be scooped out just like squash and pureed in a food processor. It can be canned or easily put into freezer bags. Or easier yet, put the pumpkins in a cool spot, and cook them as you need them. With this opportunity to do something so simple, they load up on pumpkins.
    We usually have groups coming out in the beginning of November to gather up a truck load or two as a service project to donate to the food pantries. This year, due to the pandemic, we have not had any 4-H clubs or the honor society requests to do so. If my schedule permits, I will try to get some gathered to give to the Cambridge food pantry.
    I am also finding extra time this year without school children visiting and have been cooking down a lot of pumpkins. It has been a fall harvest that has included nearly every apple off of our three apple trees and over 4 bushels of pears from one very productive pear tree. Tomatoes did not go to waste.
    This whole season, dinners have been planned better as I have been cleaning out the freezer, cooking the meat that has been hidden in the back. Now we have colorful packages of apple pie filling, sliced pears and pumpkin puree waiting for my next day of baking. My counter is full of spices, my table has jars cooling on towels. The pumpkin skins, apple and pear skins and cores have been brought to the chickens to enjoy. Our pantry has more jams, apple sauce, salsa, pie filling and preserves than ever before.
    I believe my grandma would be so proud as it looks just like her pantry did when I was little. I can remember when she was canning and the aroma that hit you when you stepped through the door. I am happy to say our kitchen has never smelled so good.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.