Fun for the Whole Family at a U-Pick Fresh Cut Flower Farm
One of the toughest things about living in northern Michigan during the summer is deciding what to do. It’s not because there’s nothing to do. Just the opposite, in fact. There’s such a bounty of options, events, places and activities, that it’s hard to pick and choose. It’s easy to fall victim to “FOMO,” or “Fear of Missing Out.”
In our experience, one of the best ways to pick and choose (literally), is to visit one of the many Traverse City U-Pick farms in the region. We’ve picked apples, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, pears…you get the idea. There’s no shortage of U-Pick opportunities in the area.
As we mentioned in our last post, we’ve started a new tradition this summer of planning a weekly adventure with our family involving active time in the great outdoors. Since we know many of our readers are interested in engaging in active outdoor fun with their families, we decided to base much of our Journal content this summer on our family outings. We’re doing some of the legwork and due diligence on an Up North Michigan summer bucket list, you might say.
As we were planning last week’s family adventure, the kids expressed their desire to visit a farm. After giving our adventure agenda a little thought, we realized that while we have visited many types of Traverse City U-Pick farms, the one type that we have not yet visited is a U-Pick flower farm.
So last Friday, Heather packed up the girls and a picnic lunch and headed north on M22 towards Suttons Bay. Her journey involved two destinations: The Suttons Bay beach and lakefront park for lunch and play, and the Omena Cut Flower farm for some fresh cut blooms.
I wasn’t there, so for the first installment of our new Summer Adventure Series, we’re featuring another first: Heather’s taking over the reins for the rest of this story. Enjoy!
Discovering Secret Spots and Fresh Cut Flowers
I’m not sure who was more excited about our first summer adventure – me or the girls. I love flowers. LOVE. Jay is always laughing at me in early March when the first green shoots start to surface. “Ooh, look at that one! And there’s another one!”.
I can’t help myself. “Over there, a tulip!!”.
Our girls are also constantly stopping while on walks, or exploring out in the backyard, to inspect and gather wildflowers. They inherited a nice mix of traits from Jay and I, but they definitely inherited the flower gene from their mom. What else could explain Jay’s tendency to walk right by the flower section at the grocery store without picking up a dozen roses or bunch of sunflowers?
Needless to say, we were pretty excited about a “girls day” at the flower farm.
But first, lunch. Suttons Bay beach is one of our favorite spots to play and explore. It’s a big, beautiful sandy beach, and there is great playground equipment right in the sand. We munched on tuna salad sandwiches and talked about what type of flowers we might find at the farm as we picnicked.
One of the things I like to do with the girls when we’re at a beach or a park is to encourage them to find a “secret” spot that they can call their own. It might be a clearing behind some bushes at the park, or at the base of a tall tree along a favorite trail. At Sutton Bay beach it’s an area at the north edge of the beach where there is a grove of tall, reedy plants, and small pools of lake water, that the girls can comfortably navigate. Finding secret spots makes an everyday outing a fun adventure to a child.
After stretching our legs and filling our bellies, we piled back into the car for the short drive up to the Omena Cut Flowers farm. As Jay mentioned previously, we’ve never been to a U-Pick flower farm in Traverse City, so when I arrived with the girls I wasn’t exactly sure how things worked. As I surveyed the rows of vibrant, beautiful blooms before me, I was sure that I was going home with some flowers. Lots of them.
The peonies caught my eye immediately. When I was a young girl my grandmother had a few peony plants on the side of her house. I remember pulling the long stems toward me to take a sniff before we’d cut a small bouquet to place on the table for Sunday night dinners in the summer.
Our first stop at the farm was to figure out how things work. As a U-Pick, it’s self-serve. You keep track of what you cut, and then pay when you’re done. There are little signs indicating the price per stem of each flower, ranging from 25 cents to $2 for something like a larger peony cut. Sometimes the farm is staffed. Other times it operates on an honor system where you leave money in the garden shed, so make sure to bring cash or a check and not just a credit card. And if you’re in a rush, there are pre-arranged bouquets in a refrigerator behind the shed so you can grab and go.
I told the girls that they could each create their own bouquet. They had a blast closely inspecting what seemed like each bloom on each flower in order to put together the perfect arrangement.
The farm was staffed that day, so we stopped by the garden shed and grower and owner Carolyn Faught explained to us how things work. Carolyn taught the girls the proper way to cut and then care for their flower bouquets. She pointed out that once the stems are cut the bottom leaves should be pulled off so that once they’re in a vase the water goes to nourish the flower blooms, and not to the stem leaves. The girls also got to check out the cool nest that a mama robin had created in the shed on an upside down vase — high enough to escape predators. The four baby robins had apparently just “flew the shed” the day before.
It was a beautiful day at the flower farm. Not only are the flowers stunning, but so are the views of West Bay that you can enjoy while stopping to smell the roses. The girls had lots of fun and learned all about different varieties of flowers and how to care for them, and each went home with a special bouquet for their nightstand, and new summer memories made with their sisters. Oh, and not only did I leave with fistfuls of fresh cut flowers, but I also enjoyed a quiet 30 minute drive home as the girls fell asleep in the car almost immediately.
Solitude and the sweet smell of fresh cut flowers – can you ask for anything better on a summer day?
Wherever you may be located, I would highly recommend seeking out a local U-Pick flower farm to check out. If you happen to be near Traverse City, Omena Cut Flowers is a great place to visit. A couple of other local options include The Iris Farm and Old Mission Flowers.
Make the Day Last Even Longer With a Fun Flower Craft
It’s summer, so I know we’re all looking for ways to keep the kids busy and stimulated. Around our house that means lots of summer-oriented crafts.
When we arrived home I had the girls get started on creating flower journals. There are lots of ideas online for creating more elaborate, made-from-scratch journals (you can find some ideas here and here, but rather than trying to create something “Pinterest-worthy,” I just wanted the girls to do their thing and see what came of it. After all, what four year olds create may seem messy to us, but is perfect to them.
So I gave each a small notebook and sent them into the backyard to collect wild flowers (they didn’t want to disturb their bouquets). Then they used whatever they could find – glue sticks, tape – to adhere the flowers to their new journals. They’ve been carrying them around ever since, adding new flowers as they find them.
There are countless fresh flower craft ideas for kids. You can find some really fun, creative ideas here.
Make Every Day an Adventure
We hope you enjoy some fun time spent in the great outdoors with your family this week. We’d love to see what you’re up to, so tag us @lifeandwhimwhen you post pics of your family fun on Facebook or Instagram!