By Alex Lippa
---- — For the last seven years, it’s been a sign that summer is coming to a close.
David Murphy will spend a day with his weed whacker and his tractor. He isn’t sprucing up his lawn, he’s creating the seasonal corn maze at J&F Farms in Derry.
“It’s about a mile long if you were to walk all the trails,” said Murphy, the son-in-law of farm co-owner Phil Ferdinando.
J&F Farms is one of two local corn mazes now open for the season. Elwood Orchards opened its 14-acre maze in mid-August.
“We decided to make the maze bigger this year,” said Wayne Elwood Jr., whose father owns Elwood Orchards. “It will make things more challenging.”
Elwood said he and a group of eight people pull the corn by hand to match a design on a graph.
“It usually takes about a week and a half to construct it,” Elwood said.
Neither J&F Farms nor Elwood Orchards design their mazes as pictures that can be seen from above, but that doesn’t make getting through the mazes any easier.
“The first few people, it took about an hour,” Elwood said. “We had a woman and their kids have to come back in because they kept ending up at the entrance.”
Murphy estimates it takes about 30 minutes to get through their 8-acre maze. But there are some interesting sights along the way that slow some people’s progress.
“There are silhouetted pictures of animals,” Murphy said. “People will be walking and spot deer, turkey, a coyote and a towel. We even got an old toilet in there with a silhouette of a guy sitting on the toilet. People always get a kick out of it.”
Murphy said they let the corn grow until it’s about waist-high, then takes a day to cut down the corn and make the trails.
“It takes about six hours,” Murphy said. “I’ll cut the corn down and then go through with a tractor and Rototill the corn stubble. It’s something I’ve been able to perfect over the years.”
Murphy said they grow a special type of corn for the maze.
“It’s cow corn,” he said. “It isn’t the sweet corn, which we sell at the farm stand. At the end of the season, we chop it up and feed it to the cows on the farm.”
So far, business has been slow at the mazes, but Elwood expects things to pick up soon.
“Once the fall comes around and it’s pumpkin season, we’ll get a lot more people,” he said, “especially on the weekends.”
Enter the maze :Elwood Orchards: 54 Elwood Road, Londonderry. Open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $9; children 5 and younger get in free. The maze also will be open from 7 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays starting the first week in October. The maze will be open until the end of October. J&F Farms: 120 Chester Road, Derry. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $4 ; children 3 and younger are admitted free. The maze is open until the end of October.