Ballston Lake farm keeps scares simple

Mitch Draina believes in the simpler ways to celebrate the season: a bumpy hay ride, a chance to see unusual animals like hawks and red squirrels, and a real homegrown pumpkin patch.

At his 60-acre farm on Outlet Road in Ballston Lake, Mitch and his wife, Dolores, and their son, Scott, operate a working sawmill, and as part of the hayride, you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the enormous logs being timbered as part of the operation.

During October, the family business becomes Mitch's Pumpkin Patch, where $3 per person gets you a ride on a trailer-driven wagon, piping hot cider doughnuts, cold cider, a jump on the inflatable bounce house, the pleasure of sitting hilltop by a bonfire and enjoying the view, and a trip to the witch's house.

There are places around with fancier operations, but they have to charge a lot more, said Draina. "We want to keep it simple and the prices low so that a family of five can come and not spend $100."

Tractor driver Doug Setter shifts the cranky machine into third gear to chug up the field, pointing out the Belgian draft horses in the far field that once pulled the logs for the sawmill.

"If you look up here in this dead tree, you might see the hawks, hunting for mice," narrated Setter, who's worked the mill and farmlands for years. "The brown squirrels can jump about 5 feet from their nest over there in the insulation to the chimney."

The ride winds through so many cornfields you forget which direction you're traveling, and ends at a bonfire, snack shack and pumpkin patch. Kids can clamber onto a red tractor and pose for photos. Pumpkins are modestly priced at $1 for a small one, up to $8 for an extra-large.

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