Peter Piper could pick a peck of pickled peppers, but could he handle pounds of pumpkins?
He could in Harford County, especially in Forest Hill, Fallston and Churchville, where the Quaker Hill Farm, the Belvedere Farm and Lohr's Orchard have pick-your-own pumpkin patches. Each farm allows customers to pick a pumpkin and buy it at 25 cents a pound.
It's fun for the children, said Amy and Peter Quackenbush of Havre de Grace, who took their three to Lohr's Orchard on Snake Lane in Churchville to pick the pumpkin of their choice.
The children had to keep one rule in mind, Mrs. Quackenbush said. They could only pick what they could carry. Melissa, 4, had her hands full, but was helping younger brother Peter, 1 1/2 , with his choice.
The Quackenbushes have been picking their own pumpkins for three years. This is their second year at Lohr's.
"We're big into Halloween," she said. "Its fun, especially with the kids."
Not only is it a fun day, it's educational, too. Mr. Quackenbush said going out to the field lets the children see where the pumpkins grow.
Pick-your-own pumpkin patches are an ideal family outing, said Lynn Moore, the Lohrs' family friend and a seasonal employee at their farm.
"It's a relaxed atmosphere," Ms. Moore said. "You can get out and walk, get fresh air. It's conducive to families."
Picking pumpkins isn't the only attraction at these farms.
L There are hayrides, produce stands and friendliness aplenty.
Don and Tricia Hoopes, owners of the Quaker Hill Farm on Grafton Shop Road in Forest Hill, said they've been growing pumpkins for 10 years. Their pumpkin patch is 5 acres.
Decorative gourds and corn husks are sold at their produce stand, as are apples and cider, which they buy from Lohr's Orchard, Mr. Hoopes said.
Apples are also a special attraction this time of year at Lohr's Orchard, where Zandra and Andrew Lohr Jr. make their own cider, which sells in their store for $2.95 a gallon and $1.60 a half-gallon.
The Lohr's have been operating their pick-your-own farm since 1974.
The Belvedere Farm on Pleasantville Road in Fallston also has farm animals and a maze to entertain youngsters.
"Not that many people have the opportunity to go onto a farm and into a field to see where pumpkins come from," said Judy Harlan.
"It's a meaningful experience."
She and her husband, Bill, own the Belvedere Farm.
The Harlans have offered the pick-your-own pumpkins for four years and also sell dried flowers, Indian corn, honey, apples and cider at their fruit stand. Like the Hoopeses, the Harlans get their cider from Lohr's Orchard, Mrs. Harlan said.
Pumpkins can be used for cooking and decorating, depending on the variety that the customer picks.
Cooking varieties, Mr. Hoopes said, are smaller and denser, and have a smaller seed cavity. The flesh can be used for pies, custards or just as a vegetable.
Spooky and Oz are two varieties of cooking pumpkins, Mr. Hoopes said.
Decorative varieties include Howden, Pankow Field and Wizard.
The Hoopes displayed ideas for decorating pumpkins in their store, where toothless grins and long-lashed winking eyes were painted on many of the jack-o'-lanterns.
All three farms are open today. Call 836-2783 for Lohr's Orchard; 838-5583 for the Quaker Hill Farm; 877-1927 for Belvedere Farm.
It's Halloween on Tuesday and the times listed are advised for trick-or-treating in Harford County communities:
* In Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, police advise children to trick-or-treat from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
* In Bel Air, police advise trick-or-treating from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
* Harford County's Sheriff's Office recommends trick-or-treating from 5 p.m to 8 p.m.
Parents are reminded to be sure children have flashlights and wear reflective clothing.
The State Highway Administration is lending reflective vests to be used Halloween night. Adults can pick up those vests, which are orange with reflective strips on the front and back, at the administration's Churchville office at 3050 Churchville Road. Vests can be checked out Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and must be returned Wednesday.