Suzanne and Larry have spent the past few days preparing and planting the pumpkin field.  Yup, it is that time of spring!  This year they got a lot of unexpected help.  Our farm dog Zoe made sure that every seed was properly planted so that we have the best pumpkins for you and your family come fall.

Suzanne and Larry prepped and planted the pumpkin fields this week.

Suzanne drops each seed into the chute. It was a hot day, good thing she wears sunscreen!

Look who decided to help! Zoe checked to make sure Suzanne was doing a good job!

All morning long Zoe walked besides the tractor, stopping occasionally for water and a treat!

Zoe was a hot dog!

Larry and Zoe checking to make sure the pumpkin seeds are at the correct depth. Zoe is such a good helper!

After lunch, Zoe stayed home to nap and rest up. Dunc Shillinger and Glenda Melville sat in the shade to watch the activity in the pumpkin field.

Hi Neighbors!

The pumpkins are planted, see you in a few months!  When you come out to the farm make sure you say, “THANKS ZOE!”

KHAN…the destroyer?

In my last blog post, I posted a picture of a broken window that my serval cat Khan destroyed.  Still really a baby and playing a bit rough, he doesn’t realize how big he is.  I don’t think he has quite grown into his size yet, Khan can be all legs and gangly at times.  And grown he has, I mentioned to someone the other day he is already bigger than I though he would be, and servals will grow until they are about two years old….So I might be in trouble.

He really is just a sweat boy, and last week when a student stopped by the house to take pictures of Khan for a photo assignement, he was a good boy, posing and being on his best behavior.

Here are just a few photos of Khan and what he does all day, at least what he does when I have company.  I suppose I am like the mom whose children are angels for everyone else, but keep their own mother on her toes.  Anyway let me know what you think of my boy!

I really am just a very sweet cat!

What broken window?

It's hard being me...

Yawnnnn....You're still taking pictures?

Next yogo position, spinx pose.

Khan’s new favorite photographer also snapped a few shots of John and Deere, who don’t look quite as pleased to be photographed.

What do you want?

Are you done yet?

Yep, we are!


Back in Full Swing

Many people don’t realize that the farm is a year-round job, especially when we are only open to guests from September thru December.  This time of year, before the planting and shearing seasons, I finally have time to sit down, analyze the previous season, and ponder what’s next.

A few weeks back I attended the North America Farmers Direct Marketing meeting and trade show in Williamsburg, Virginia.  It allows those of us in the farming industry to see what’s the latest and greatest in everything from pumpkin varieties to ticketing.  I was lucky enough to get a back stage tour of Busch Gardens.  Of course they aren’t open this time of year, but we were able to get a first hand look at some of their activities and behind the scenes operations.  I was totally impressed with Busch Gardens new bio-metrics ticketing.   Cameras capture guest images upon entrance into the park  Those that are season ticket holders, or who buy a three-day pass, need not worry about loosing their pass or paper tickets.  The cameras and computer automatically recognize the guest and allow them to proceed!  How cool is that.

While I could never even dream of something like that, I appreciated the fact of how much Busch Gardens is dedicated to guest satisfaction.  Something that we are passionate about and always are looking to improve on.

Back stage at The Wolf Encounter, Busch Gardens, Williamsburg

Next stop was Colonial Williamsburg.  This is Julie our marketing managers old stomping ground, as she lived in the area for about 9 years.  She had some great suggestions for restaurants and night life, all of which I had no time for!

What I did have time for was walking around this gem of a historic attraction.  I met a very large horse and a black-faced sheep that got me to thinking, should we add one of these guys to Bunnyville?!  I vote sheep, I am sure nieces Amanda and Hannah will vote the horse.

Would this black-faced sheep be a good fit for the farm?

Or how about this big guy?

Big kudos to us!  Our website was voted the #2 website at this international conference.  The #1 website was for a soda pop in England, so as Julie pointed out – our website is #1 in North America!  YEA!

While I was away, dad and mom were hard at work adding new blue bird houses to the Christmas tree fields.  You may remember we started this project last may, and quickly had blue birds mating and raising chicks.  I  love this picture of the farm dog Zoey making sure that Dad stays safe and sound on the ladder.

Thanks for the help Zoey!

As for what is immediately coming up, we will be sending out a survey for those of you who are on our email newsletter list.  I really urge you to take a few minutes and fill out the survey.  It is imperative for helping us make decisions about what is next at the farm.  It’s the very best way for us to get feedback from our guests, and hey you may get a free ticket into our 2012 Pumpkin Patch and Harvest Fest.

For those who have been asking, Khan my Serval cat is growing so fast!  He six months old and 22 pounds.  His days are spent napping and well napping.  Dog’s life nothing, it’s a cat’s life!

Khan doing what he does best!

Although he was a bad kitty last week.  While I was away, Khan was playing a little to rough, okay a lot rough, and broke a window in the kitchen.  My poor niece Hannah walked in to take care of our animals and found the mess.  Thankfully Khan was completely unhurt and watched over as Hannah cleaned up the glass!  Broken window

This delightful weather has allowed us to work in the fields and get a head start on cleaning up brush and garbage (yuck) in the fields.  Just a reminder to please recycle you bottles and please throw out your dirty diapers!  Yes, we actually found a couple!  Since we seem to be ahead of the game, I was put on notice that dad just might want to start trimming trees!  Hold on Dad, it’s still too early!

Not to forget!  It’s Stokoe Farms 200th Anniversary.  In February of 1812 my ancestor Thomas Stokoe purchased property on what is now Bowerman Road in Scottsville, New York.  This was the start of 6 generations of Stokoe’s farming.  We are kicking off a huge celebration for my family.  Keep your eyes open for announcements in our newsletter and on our Facebook page for special events.  Who knows what we might have for our loyal farm guest!


When I look around the wreath barn, formerly know as our old shop, I really have to smile.  It’s a mix of good friends, cousins, family and distant relatives.  Somehow or another, the group of ladies who work so hard to make our wreaths by hand, have all come to the farm through love.  I can count on each and every one of them to put in long hours and dedication for the farm.  So really from the day after election day to the week before Christmas, they are married to the barn.  Of course they do break for lunch on-time each day!

We get lots of questions about where our wreaths come from.  Last year our wreath crew made and decorated over 1200 wreaths, mantle pieces, swags, arrangements and cemetery crosses for our guests, in sizes that range from 20” to 72″ across.  Take a look at the pictures below and see the process of wreath making.  (Note that all my workers are dedicated, but they want to keep their great talents a secret.  So the beautiful wreath pictures are complements of Bob Melville, the photos of hands making the wreaths are complements of Julie, she had to re-take some of the pictures…you get what I am saying!)

Matt is basal pruning in a block of Fraser firs.  This is hard work that requires the employee to cut the bottom six inches of branches off the trees.  This makes it easier for our guests to cut down their own tree.

A fast worker can basal prune a tree in about one minutes time.  The branches are then stacked and ready to be loaded into Larry’s pick up truck.

  The Fraser fir branches are brought over to the wreath barn where there are cleaned of any grasses and sorted.

Greens are then cut to size depending on the size wreath that is being made.

Greens are bunched and trimmed depending on the length and width required.

The bunches are then placed between the clamps on the proper size ring and crimped into place. 

Our decorators then add berries, pine cones, natural material and those special finishing touches for a one of a kind wreath to adorn your home. Every bow is even hade-made by several artistic women.

Did you know we take custom wreath orders?  Contact for details, pricing and ordering.

Summer Shearing with the Crew!

If you read our newsletter, you saw my niece Amanda’s article on the shearing of our Christmas trees. While Amanda got the technical information down, it’s really the pictures that say it all.

A shearing crew’s necessities kit.  Hat, clippers, knife, sunscreen, water and of course a snack!  The duct tape is used to help prevent blisters, well it is supposed to anyway.

Cousin Brendan is very careful with our smallest trees.  Each tree must be sheared yearly.  As you can see this one is a long way from decorating someones’ home.  And yes, we make all family member work on the farm!  Just kidding!

In this picture Amanda and Tammy are isolating a single branch at the top of a tree so that you can have a straight tree topper.  These trees will be ready to be cut soon, so Tommy gives them a lift.  Oh yeah our girls rock!

Break time!  Our crew generally work from 8 am until noon.  It is hard work, especially during this record-breaking heat and humidity, so a half a day is about right.  Most of our crew members go on to another job in the afternoon.  We have some of the hardest workers I know on the farm.

Our Crew!  It was the end of the day on Friday when I took this picture, so nobody was particularly happy with my timing.  Just wanted to give them all a big kudos!  It takes a lot of work to grow a Christmas tree, and they make our trees look great!

See you all soon!


How Cool Is That!

We asked some of you in a survey this spring to choose a new attraction for this fall and the 18 foot spiral slide won by a big margin. So… it finally showed up this week. When starting to putting the slide together, the phrase, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat…” comes to mind, but in our case it was a taller fork lift. In short, it’s a bigger project installing it on site, or at least its taking longer than I anticipated.  So I will call this a photo blog….

Dad is using the loader to move the just delivered slide, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.  There are so many pallets!

Here I am with Glenda Melville, studying our newly delivered slide. How are we going to get these 400 plus pound segments up 18 feet???

This is a rare occasion when Bob Melville isn’t behind the camera!  We needed his engineering skills for this project.  This is the first section of the slide being attached to the structure. Thank goodness for the loan of the straw stacker attachment on the grain farms fork lift – this was essential for construction.

Just getting the first section up was a chore.  This took a whole afternoon. Here Dad (Larry) and I survey how much is left to do.

Anybody stopping by the see the new project was fair game to recruit for help.They gave us a really big boost when we were getting tired.

At this point, I am asking why this slide if fighting us every step of the way.  That, and how soon lunch is.

Here Ben is making sure the center support is properly attached.  I am supervising or maybe napping.

End of day three, we are about half way there!

Day four, school is out and niece Hannah has joined in on the fun.

Hannah securing yet another section…How many were there again?

At this point I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Hannah lowers herself down into the slide to secure all the fasteners properly.

Here I am securing the final section!  Yea!

A quick test for safety and fun!

Introducing our new Auger Spiral Slide…

I approve!  Day 5, and despite some frustration I have to look at what I did (with lots of help) and say “How Cool Is That”!

Can’t wait  to see all the fun everyone is going to have at Harvest Fest.

Sunny Days at Last.

The wet weather has finally broken, and beautiful sunny days have arrived. Today was a perfect day, blue skies and white fluffy clouds, really quite picturesque.  While crowds of guest are less than 100 days away, it doesn’t mean that there is any lack of projects or work at the farm.

Hannah Ivie has been hard at work with various chores.  While during the season she is hard at work in the gift shop, its been great to give her a to-do list of small projects that need to get done.  Hannah has been hard at work touching up the paint on our train, which Wes has just gotten out of the barn.  There is one cart she won’t have to touch though, its brand new this year.  Can’t wait to debut it at Harvest Fest.

Hannah also has helped me finish our new restrooms.  Time was so short for getting them finished last year, that we were never able to stain the trim.  At the time the important part was to get the plumbing done in time for everyone to use.  Have to say, it’s still one of my proudest parts of the farm.

I am going to have Hannah paint a large bird condo that I would like mounted on top of the rest rooms.  See the Concolor fir under the restroom sign, the next picture shows  a pair of newly hatched baby Chipping Sparrows.

This picture was taken Saturday (June 12, 2011) but when I peaked at them today, I swear they have doubled in size.

I haven’t noticed too many crows in the fields this spring, something I commented on in my last blog post.  Yea!  Dad and I have taken note of at least five Chipping Sparrow nests in the Fraser fir  fields.  Dad found one nest with a large cream-colored egg, a tell-tale sign of a Cowbird.  Cowbirds are one of the few brood parasitic birds.  That means they lay their eggs in the nest of other birds, and leave them to be raised by foster birds.  The Cowbird quickly outgrows the other chicks and usually attack or push them out of the nest.

Dad made sure to remove the nasty egg from the nest.  We will check back in the next few days to make sure that the Cowbird hasn’t made a return trip, which they often do.

One of the highlights of this spring has been watching Pak our baby Yak grow and play.  He is now three weeks old and growing so fast.  He weaned himself from three to two feedings a day, a break for me!  But, is up to a four pint bottle both morning and evening.  He and Ora Mae our Angora goat have become best friends and are the cutest pair when playing in mom and dad’s side yard.  Pak continues to have no clue that he is wearing a pack and I work with him daily after playtime on his halter training.  Pak may think he is a “big boy” but the baby in him still likes to suck on dad’s finger.

We have gotten some emails asking how John and Deere, our emu chick are doing.  They certainly don’t look like chicks anymore.  I have really enjoyed watching the two of them grow up and develop very distinct and different personalities.  Deere, is a very outgoing and well-behaved little girl.  John, on the other hand, well he is a boy…They have moved out of the baby pen and moved in with the peacocks, guinea hens, chickens and rabbits.  They love their grass clippings and will share a piece of bread for a nightly treat.

When they make their public debut for Harvest Fest, they should be just about full-grown.  Hard to believe how fast they grow!

This week is promising to be busy.  Julie and I met with our web designer to make a few last tweaks on the new website.  I will let everyone know when it’s up and ready to go.  Its been another huge under taking, but its going to be so worth it in the end.  Also we are finishing up the new Harvest Barn Sweets area, the latest newsletter will have pictures of what we have constructed, something else that needs to be finished this week…

Also make sure you check out the newsletter for a fun recipe for strawberry ice cream that does not require any special machinery.  If you haven’t done so already, go to and sign up for our newsletter.

Soon it will be time to start shaping and trimming the trees, and getting all the activities ready for Harvest Fest.  Opening day is 95 days away…yikes!

The picture of the eggs that Julie posted on our Facebook page, are Killdeer eggs.  Dad found this typical Killdeer nest right  in the middle of the pumpkin patch the other day.