started growing pumpkins and offering tours at the homestead in 1983, when she
still lived in the adjoining 1837 waterfront manor house.
"We were making cookies, sometimes 400 at a time, to give to each of the children," she
At that time, the children - 1,200 she
counts - would traipse through the house to use the bathroom. (In the mid-1980s she
sold the house and a couple of lots to pay off debt.
Now there's a row of port-a-johns placed discreetly behind the barn.)
learned on the job.
grew up in a family that moved often before settling in Maryland.
The couple duly moved from Annapolis - where Flanagan
taught physical education - with their three children.
The maintenance was constant, she
It's the same tractor that Flanagan
drives today more than 30 years later.
stayed put, and in 1982 they divorced.
tried keeping the strawberries but was overwhelmed by the expense and the difficulties, though she
still grows a large patch for Noah, her
He lives across the road with her daughter, Krista, a 4-H extension agent for Gloucester, who helps out at the farm after work.
switched to pumpkins and other Halloween attractions - scarecrow-making, haunted hayrides, face-painting, pumpkin-chunking - gradually grew up around them.
This year she
planted 12 acres, driving the tractor while her
daughter sat on the back of a tomato planter and dropped the seeds in one by one, taking the better part of three days.
A late start in mid-July followed by torrential rains knocked off the early blossoms and delayed the harvest by a month.
"I've got a fair amount of green pumpkins out there," she
says, which has forced her
to buy more than usual to supplement.
For the haunted hayride, she
cuts two big mazes in the sorghum crop, next to the field of rapidly drying sunflowers, and puts "bodies" with fake chain saws and other scary items in there, and drives the trailers through.
says, cheerfully, "It's really dark out there but it's more funny than scary.
After more than 25 years of running the place herself, Flanagan
would like to turn it over to someone else with a knowledge of agriculture and a big family that could help out.
She lives three miles away with her husband, Stuart Flanagan, a mathematics professor at the College of William and Mary.
with the SOL pretests for K-4 students, tied in to the garden and the farm animals, but that's all.
doesn't like the farm one iota - it's a one-person operation," she
Some consider it the best job in the world, but it doesn't just happen, she
says, observing wind damage that's knocked down an entire maze of pencil-leaf evergreens in containers.
cultivated a crew of 10 locals who pitch in as needed when the school groups converge, sometimes as many as 450 at a time.
"The kids are so cute," she
tanned face crinkling into a grin.
describes how they'll pick out giant pumpkins, too large to carry and try to roll them instead.
In late November, after the season, Flanagan
usually heads to Nebraska for a week to see her
two brothers and 91-year-old mother.
Both brothers run farms similar to Belmont, but on a larger, more commercial scale.
This year she's
planning on a month's stay.
They'll put her
right to work, she