Nothing plain ’bout Plainfield

Plainfield, New Hampshire is an unassuming town of 2,000, but it would be a mistake to overlook this charming New England town. It’s home to a state forest, a bird sanctuary, the gorgeous and sprawling campus of Kimball Union Academy, and the Maxfield Parrish state highway. Parrish, a key figure in America’s Golden Age of Illustration, spent more than 60 years of his life in Plainfield, though he was born and attended college in Philadelphia. Although his illustrations for children’s books made him famous, in his later life he turned exclusively to landscapes, many inspired by the Plainfield country side.

Maxfield Parrish was an American illustrator and Plainfield native. Photo from wikimedia.

Maxfield Parrish was an American illustrator and Plainfield native. Photo from wikimedia.

One of the best places to appreciate the beauty of Plainfield is Riverview Farm, right off the Parrish highway. I found it by accident during my first autumn in New Hampshire, when I was looking for distractions from work and an excuse to be with my 99 Volvo S70. Every year since, I’ve made an autumn pilgrimage out to the farm.

Riverview Farm is home to pick-your-own orchards of blueberries, raspberries, and apples. There are flowers for cutting and a massive pumpkin patch that grows many varietals. There is fresh cider – hot and cold – and maple ice cream made from the milk of the McNamara dairy cows next door. There are carriage rides and local cheese and best of all, the corn maze.

Clearly the most fabulous raspberries in the world.

Clearly the most fabulous raspberries in the world.

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This is the most sincere pumpkin patch I have ever seen.

Corn mazes are fun but also eerie and otherworldly. It’s rare to be among vegetables that are so much bigger than us, which can block out all sense of direction. (My nightmares are filled with stalks of corn turned into zombies.) The corn maze at Riverview is suitably impressive, with many disorienting twists and turns. One of the best (worst?) moments of the Riverview maze is when you’re directed to a platform above the corn. Looking down on the entirety of maze, it’s still impossible to see where you are supposed to be going.

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One of the special features of the Riverview maze is its charming stories, which you follow chapter by chapter through the maze. The stories change every year and are accompanied by original artwork. This year’s story was my favorite so far, about two lovelorn plants and as funny raccoon who negotiates between them. I don’t know who writes the stories or creates the artwork, but they ought to be collected in a children’s anthology. There’s also a riddle in the maze, which taught me something I never knew about my region of New Hampshire. I won’t spoil the surprise here, but I’m planning a blog post on it in November. That gives you and your family a solid month to visit Riverview, enjoy the corn maze, and solve the riddle for yourself! While you’re there, be sure to wander up and down the Parrish highway, see the pumpkin people of Meriden, enjoy the trails at the historic home of Augustus Saint Gaudens, and fall in love with the autumnal beauty of Plainfield, New Hampshire.

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