ALLEGANY - Ryan and Shawna Mahaffy's piece of heaven on earth, as they like to call it, is a rich producer of apples, figs, blueberries, peaches and other crops.
This year brought a new test of the land's generosity. The Mahaffys carved out three acres for a pumpkin patch, planted seeds and hoped for the best.
The result: About 3,000 to 4,000 joyfully plump jumbo jack-o-lantern candidates. Varieties include Cinderellas, moonbeams and white valencianos, plus an abundance of gourds.
Beginning Friday, you can have your pick for 25 cents to 40 cents per pound.
Though the young couple grows a variety of fruits and vegetables, pumpkins are their maiden commercial endeavor. But more than pumpkins, the Mahaffys are offering a rich autumn experience.
"People come out here and they just die. They love it here," Ryan Mahaffy said.
It's easy to see why.
Serenaded by an insect choir, with a yellow and red backdrop of alders and maples, the Mahaffy Ranch is destined to be a harvest hot spot. They're opening it to the public for the first time since they bought their 95-acre ranch six years ago.
Already, they've booked 22 preschool through third- grade classes for tours, charging $4 per student. (Everyone gets to take home a mini-pumpkin.) Several fundraisers and photography events are planned.
A grass maze and hayrides will enliven the autumn atmosphere.
Rolling up their sleeves
Enlisting the help of their three boys -Ben, 7, Gabe, 5, and Jack, 3 - the Mahaffys began planting 10,000 seeds on Memorial Day. They carefully tended the earth, irrigating from the Millacoma River that lolls around their property.
Ryan assumed growing pumpkins would be a snap compared with his other occupation, growing timber.
"It was a steep learning curve this year," he said.
His wife agreed: "It was very time-consuming."
Some people thought the effort ill-advised. Ryan recalls their seed dealer in the Willamette Valley cautioning them, "You couldn't have picked a worse time to do this."
The soggy summer has pummeled crops in the valley, but their patch fared relatively well. Tucked amid mountains, the ranch sits on fertile river-bottom ground, sheltered from heavy winds and just far enough from the coast to provide essential warmth.
"It just bakes out here," Ryan said. "I think we had just the right temperature to do it."
But the weather didn't give them a pass entirely. The crop was under six inches of water at one point.
If not for the rain, "I think we could have had more," Shawna said. "Thank goodness Ryan always does everything big. We still have plenty of pumpkins."
Choices for this sort of thing are far and few between in Coos County. Mountain View Farms in Lakeside hosts similar events, though pumpkins don't grow on the property. They're brought in.
For an authentic pumpkin-picking experience, many motor to Eugene or Roseburg.
The Mahaffys say they're less concerned with turning a profit than with providing a local venue for folks to get their fall fix.
"As long as we break even," Ryan said. "Money is not the driving factor."