A haywagon ride at McConauchie Manor Farm includes a stop to chuck a pumpkin.
“Everyone wants to do it,” said Emily Munter, marketing specialist at the farm. “Look, someone got a bull’s-eye.”
A pumpkin, launched from a giant slingshot, was stuck smack-dab in the middle of a bale of hay.
Farm owner Lynnette Mooth, her son Robert, 11, daughter Hannah, 18, and Emily climbed from the wagon to give the slingshot a try. Each chose a medium-size pumpkin from a big cardboard box, placed it in the sling, then stretched the sling way, way back and let the pumpkin fly.
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No bull’s-eyes, but some talk about having a leaderboard to show whose pumpkin went farthest.
Pumpkin chucking is one of many adventures that await visitors to the 120-acre Carlyle farm’s first Corn Maze and Fall Festival. Children can ride a pony, pet a bunny, chicken or goat, or play in the corn bin.
“It’s filled with livestock corn,” Lynette said, “a totally different experience than a sandbox.”
They can try out the farm-style “work-in-progress” playground. Climb a pile of tires or stand atop a hay bale and feel like they are king of the world, or at least, king of the farm.
Banners hang in front of the farm’s two mazes, one for big kids and one for little. Each has a mystery to solve. One mystery is patterned after the Clue game.
“Which animal kidnapped Farmer John?” Emily said. “Which weapon did they use? We are always changing it.”
The larger maze is 1.6 miles.
“It takes a while, especially if you’re going in circles,” said Emily, “but they always come out laughing. ... If people want a guide, we’ll give them one. We also have a cheater map.”
Younger kids try to figure out which farm animal left its tracks on metal discs atop the maze’s short posts. They use a crayon to do a rubbing, then match it to hoofprints on the corn maze banner.
“We’ve had big kids do it, too,” Emily said.
Down on the farm
Lynnette and David, a family practice/emergency physician, and their nine children moved to the farm 16 years ago. Before that, they lived for five years in Collinsville where they had an orchard and berry patch.
“We are both from north central Illinois,” said Lynnette, the oldest of 14 children. “We got married as he started medical school. We both went to U of I. My dad was teaching at the University of Illinois. Our family originally had moved from (Ithaca) New York to Champaign. When (David) finished up (his medical requirements) at Scott, we started looking around and decided what we wanted to do. We saw a lot of kids who were spoiled. We wanted ours to work hard.”
We saw a lot of kids who were spoiled. We wanted ours to work hard.
Lynnette Mooth on why they moved to the farm
The Mooths raise pastured lifestock, antibiotic free poultry, Berkshire pigs, Boer goats and Cheviot sheep.
“Our name is a Scottish name,” Lynnette said. “A lot of the livestock happens to be Scottish as well.”
They also have six Clydesdales, also Scottish.
“This is people’s favorite,” Lynnette said as the wagon bumped its way toward the handsome horses. Wagon driver Leland Burton hopped down, grabbed a couple corn stalks and offered them to the horses —three geldings, a stallion and two mares —that came running.
Just past the Clydesdales was a field of strawberry plants.
“They’re kind of a high-maintenance crop, but worth their trouble,” she said. “They grow gigantic and very sweet.”
They plant their strawberries in fall and harvest in spring. They also have orchards and grow vegetables.
The Mooths started talking about creating a corn maze two years ago.
“We saw some of these back east,” Lynette said of the maze. “We talked to other farms who have done this. A year ago, we decided to give it a go. ... We found ourselves a maze company that could come out and cut our maze for us.”
Lynnette’s sisters April Rhiner and Bryna Fisher and their families help out on the farm. April tends to the strawberries; Bryna heads up the bees. Cousins pair up and take on a task.
“Everyone has a hand in everything.” Lynnette said. “My sisters’ families enjoyed coming down (from northern Illinois) with their kids. They ended up moving close by. It’s been very fun and unexpected.”
Kind of like the corn maze and festival.
“We just really want to give children and families a place to come to experience farm life and nature,” April said, “in a safe, family-friendly environment.”
Bunnies to pet
James Hobbs, 5, couldn’t decide which bunny to pick up and cuddle.
The 5-year-old Carlyle boy looked from one pen to the other inside a neat-as-a-pin small outbuilding.
“These are five New Zealand Rex,” said Liberty Mooth, 13, who helps out with the bunnies.
“I am going to try to pick up this brown one,” James said, reaching into a pen. “He’s fast, though.”
Grandma Deb Koerkenmeier, of Carlyle, stood nearby, ready to help. James picked up a squirmy bunny.
“If you cover his eyes, he will calm down,” Liberty said. “They naturally live in burrows. They like dark places.”
James, a kindergartner at All Saints Academy in Breese, set down one rabbit and considered a chubbier one.
“Is this the hogger, the one that hogs all the food?”
120 Acres on McConauchi Manor Farm
1.6 Miles of paths in the largest corn maze
Deb figured the farm would be a good place to take her grandson on his day off.
“We saw the signs on that big old billboard on New Route 50,” she said. “We fed the goats, the horses, went through the corn maze, rode horses, road the train. It’s pretty cool, very nice, well put together and the people are friendly.”
Lesa Steinkamp, of Carlyle, brought her grandchildren, too.
“We read about it in the newspaper and drive by the corn maze signs every day,” she said.
Because the farm is out in the country, yellow and black corn signs are at every turn to guide newcomers to the farm.
“So far, everything is awesome here,” she said, holding a bunny for 4-year-old Camden Leath, and 2-year-old Piper Leath to pet. “We’re looking forward to the rest of it. I’ve got some animal-loving kids here.
“OK, kids, ready to do the maze?”
At a glance
You have a choice of two mazes, hayrides, children’s play area and more at McConauchie Manor Farm.
- When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays through Nov. 7 and Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11
- Where: 9360 Brinkman Road, 5 miles south of Carlyle
- Cost for maze, playground and animal petting area: $8 for ages 12 and older; $4 for ages 3 to 11.
- Other costs: barrel train, $3; pony ride, $5 and three-hour firepit rental, $25. Want to make s’mores? Add $3.
- Concessions: Hot dogs, chili dogs, corn dogs, hot chocolate and more
- Contact: 314 699-4430 or https://www.facebook.com/mcconauchiemanor