Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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In honor of the 50th anniversary of the beloved Peanuts special TV program, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, I’m sharing 10 ideas to celebrate fall like Snoopy in nature.
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Indeed, the best beagle of all times knew a thing or two about enjoying seasons and wasn’t one to miss out on family fun, whether he was channeling his inner Great Pumpkin or fighting the Red Baron. You can do any of these activities in no particular order. Just enjoy them as nods to actual scenes in the TV special.
In It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Linus writes a letter to the Great Pumpkin, saying how he’s looking forward to the Great Pumpkin’s arrival on Halloween night. We don’t usually write to the Great Pumpkin but it’s worth a thought for Snoopy’s sake. To bring this activity outdoors, make it a writing activity outside. It’s a fun exercise to do with children and they may be very creative for a character as funny as the Great Pumpkin.
For this activity, all you need is paper and pen, as well as a nice spot to write. For a DIY fall activity, bring an ink pot and look for big feathers on the trail. Once you have a nice feather (geese are the best), cut it into a quill. Cutting quills is not as difficult as it sounds. You can cut from the tip of the feather towards the root end using scissors and go the other way when using a knife (a pocket knife will do) to strip it clean.
Last but not least, ask the kids start the letter with “Dear Great Pumpkin,” and let them write to one of the most beloved and fictitious Halloween characters.
Snoopy does it while Charlie Brown rakes dead leaves, making leaf blowing look easy with effortless class, but don’t be fooled by Snoopy’s nonchalance. While this activity is perfect to get moving on any hike, it requires some practice and quick instincts. Free-falling leaves have a mind of their own, you see.
Indeed, when a dead leaf falls off a tree, there’s no knowing which way it’s going to blow and your guess is as good as mine. The trick of the game is to find yourself under the leaf as it falls closer to you and to blow on it to push it upwards and on a new downward dance. Because of the random nature of falling leaves, this game requires really good leaf-eye coordination and good running legs too. For best results, find a tree that’s about to lose a lot of leaves and wait for a gust of wind. Run!
Trust zen master gardeners on that one. Raking dead leaves into a pile is extremely soothing. For a zen experience, slow down and strategize before you start raking leaves into neat piles, turning a back-breaking autumnal rite into leaf awesomeness.
Of course in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown clearly thinks it’s a chore when he rakes dead leaves outside into a pile but he manages a really neat and tall pile. His pile is the stuff of legends, in that there’s no way a leaf pile in nature would have such a narrow base and rise that high like a column. It is, however, conducive to the next activity on this list and I don’t see how kids could even resist it.
There goes the pile of dead leaves. Jump in it!
After Charlie Brown has finished raking his pile of dead leaves, he and Snoopy see Linus jump feet first into the pile with a large lollipop in his mouth. As Linus emerges with leaves stuck all over his lollipop, he shares these wonderful pearls of wisdom, “Never jump into a pile of dead leaves with a wet sucker.”
There wouldn’t be a Great Pumpkin without a pumpkin patch to begin with. Come early October, nothing says autumn like pumpkins and squashes on a farm field or next to hay stacks. If you’re lucky to have a pumpkin patch nearby, make it a family day out and pick the largest pumpkins you can find for your jack’o lantern. That’s what Lucy would do.
If you don’t have a pumpkin patch or a PYO farm that grows pumpkins nearby, you might still be able to find pumpkins at your local food markets. Pumpkins grow in many climates around the world without difficulty.
When you pick your pumpkin, note that the best pumpkins for carving are not necessarily the best for eating. Knock on the outside; if it sounds hollow, it’s best for carving, and if it’s dense, it’s best for eating. You want to be able to reach the cavity inside to insert a candle.
Only Lucy would break her brother’s heart by gutting the largest pumpkin to turn it into a Jack’o Lantern. “Oh. You didn’t tell me you were gonna kill it,” Linus exclaims with drama and visible disappointment. Yes Linus, pumpkins picked at the pumpkin patch before Halloween frequently turn into jack’o lanterns.
Fortunately, most children enjoy carving jack’o lanterns. To carve yours, you will need one of these cheap (but efficient) pumpkin carving sets to make gutting and precision-cutting a breeze. As far as patterns, the Peanuts gang is completely old school (but you can do what you want) and this is a simple pattern as featured in the TV program. Print it and use it a guideline for your carving.
Bobbing for apples is a great autumn classic for all ages (parents too) and a game often played on Halloween. In It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Lucy bobs for apples at Violet’s Halloween party and brings up an
apple with Snoopy on the other end of it. A great speech on dog germs ensues.
Needless to say, bobbing for apples should be done without a beagle in the bucket. If you’ve never tried it, here is how it’s done.
Never trust Lucy with a ball. She always tells Charlie Brown that she will hold a football while he kicks it, which of course makes Charlie Brown suspicious because he does not trust Lucy. When Lucy insists, Charlie Brown runs up to kick the ball, but at the very last second before he can kick it, Lucy removes the ball and Charlie Brown flies into the air, before falling down and hurting himself. Classic Lucy.
To show Lucy how it’s done nicely, bring a football (or any other ball) on your next family hike and find an open area to play ball with the kids. See how far they can kick the ball and repeat.
The real hero in Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is Linus who always drags his blue comfort blanket everywhere he goes while sucking his thumb. Since autumn comes with crisp air, a basket full of warm blankets during a party outside is an open invitation to wrap your shoulders in woolly goodness and enjoy warm drinks under the trees.
I am partial to Pendleton blankets for winter woolly comfort, as I visited the Pendleton Blanket Mill factory store in Pendleton, Oregon, and fell in love with the patterns and colors. They are classic American blankets, made with superb quality and very resistant. As a result, they are quite pricey but you pay for what you get. When I visited Pendleton, I couldn’t afford full-price blankets but managed to get a bargain on a discontinued blanket in the Outlet store. It was my favorite blanket and I loved it dearly until the day we moved to the UK and I lost it.
To replace it, I’ve now purchased a blanket from an Irish woollen mill called Foxford Woollen Mills. Even if you don’t travel to Ireland, you can find their blankets in National Trust shops all over the UK as they are distributed there.
When Snoopy changes into the World World I Flying Ace and climbs on his doghouse to take off in the sky, it’s always to fight epic battles against the Red Baron. Inevitably, such a battle takes place in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but Snoopy loses to his nemesis and walks through the night to Violet’s Halloween party. On the way out, he goes to the pumpkin patch and when Linus sees the shadow of his figure, he’s convinced that the Great Pumpkin has arrived and faints.
No need to dress as a World War I Flying Ace for this activity. All you have to do is to take the kids out on a walk at night before Halloween and let them enjoy an unusual adventure. In local parks, October sees many nocturnal events organized for families and it could be a great way to enjoy a night hike. In your area, look for
This concludes 10 ways to celebrate fall in nature like Snoopy. If ever you head to Iowa this fall, please visit the Corn Maze at Center Grove Orchards. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, they’ve created a unique corn maze featuring the night Red Baron scene from the TV special.