Wednesday, October 5, 2011

getting fleeced at the apple orchard

the little guy insisted that i put him up in the tree so he could pick his own apples
It seems like my wish for the global economic system to collapse already is coming true this week.  Europe is coming apart at the seams, and at home Americans are occupying Wall Street.  The mass media is even covering it now, so it must really be happening.

When landscaping a site or renovating a house the first thing you do is to throw out all the rotten wood, unreusable appliances, all the junk, so that you can get down to what is good, and build up from there.  It seems to me that we need to go through that, but on a grander scale, right now.  The government and Federal Reserve have been trying to wallpaper over a moldy, roach-infested wall, or wall street, trying to salvage the unsalvageable.   I'm all for reusing and recycling where possible, but sometimes you have to have to do some demo and start fresh.

I will post my personal Bank of America story at a later date.  I don't mind seeing them at the verge of bankruptcy- not in the least.   They're a good example of what is wrong with the financial system in this country, and allowing them to be liquidated the way so many small local banks already have been during this recession is a fitting end, and almost too kind.

For now (this is a garden blog after all, isn't it?) I want to talk about another business taking my money- but at least one that provides an actual product, and some entertainment as well.  The Apple Orchard.

lost in the corn maze
Going to The Apple Orchard has become a sort of rite of fall in the Twin Cities.  At least for people with young kids. 

I enjoy apple orchards, and have been to a few in my lifetime.  I remember picking windfall apples for sauce at an orchard on the shore of Lake Winnnebago as a kid.  The apples at the orchard were cheaper than the apples at the store, and if a storm happened to blow through at about the time that the apples were ripening, the farm would sell the fallen apples at an even deeper discount.

My parents were thrifty, and like applesauce and apple pies, so they waited for the 'windfalls' as they were called, and that's when we would go out picking.  I remember wandering through the tall grass under the trees, hunting for apples, not taking the really wormy or damaged ones and being warned not to pick off of the trees.  There weren't many other people there, but it was nice to have the place to ourselves.

Not so the Apple Orchard in the suburbs of St. Paul.   You do not go to pick fruit and save a little money at the Apple Orchard.  You pay a premium.  It is not something you do for food.  It is An Experience. 

I dislike tourist traps.  Maybe its because I'm a bit thrifty.  (But not nearly as thrifty as my wife- my friend overheard her questioning the price of entering the corn maze and thought it was funny- and that she and I are a good match.)  But I also dislike packaged experiences, especially those that require being herded like cattle through gates.

To be fair- the kids had fun.  A good friend of mine, his family, and two kids that their daughter goes to Saturday school with went with us; so we didn't go to our usual out-in-the woods abandoned farm orchard that we usually go to in the fall.  We went through the corn maze, got lost, laughed a lot, took photos, picked apples, rode on a hay wagon, and overall had a pretty good time.

But there was a crowd; hundreds, maybe thousands of cars parked in a field.  Nine bucks per adult, seven per kid for the corn maze.  Another three bucks per adult, two per kid just to enter the fenced area where you could pick apples, and that doesn't include the price of the apples themselves- which are also more expensive than those at the conventional grocery store.

Yes, there was a playground and a petting zoo (and you could buy a handful of goat food for just two quarters!)  and hayrides (and it only cost two bucks a kid to go on the 'train' ride made from oil barrels!)   Yes, we could afford it.  But it felt less like the sort of wholesome activity I think of when I imagine apple picking, and more like being pickpocketed.


We made applesauce and apple butter from the apples we collected, and saved a few for lunches over the next week.  I was able to salve my cheapskate self by picking apples from my sister's neighbor's tree.   They hadn't been sprayed, so they were a bit wormy and deformed, but also free of chemicals.  They weren't going to pick them, so they offered them to my sister who then offered them to us.
making apple butter with peels!

They were pretty good apples really.  And we found a recipe for using the peels, and some of the smaller apples to make apple butter.

We spent the next week canning a few jars of applesauce and apple butter each evening, using this recipe for the apple butter that uses peels.  I just counted, and we now have 24 and a half quarts of applesauce and 11 and a half pint jars of apple butter.  That from about 60 pounds of apples, more or less.

It's a good feeling having a stock of homemade applesauce in the root cellar.  Even in the age of being able to buy it at any time from the store, having a cellar stocked with food makes me feel ready for the winter.

Damned if I go back to that Apple Orchard next year for sauce apples though.


  1. For you and your family it seems fall and winter is graciously coming. By the way, you have cute kids.

  2. Interesting. I actually made a batch of slow cooker applesauce last weekend, but just ate most of the peels as an afternoon snack. May have to try this sometime.

    (Oh, and if that unnamed orchard near Lake Winnebago happened to be The Little Farmer - I'm afraid it has much more of the weekend tourist trap vibe these days, I think.)

  3. Hi Amy,

    I honestly can't remember if it was the Little Farmer. We went to a couple of different ones at different times if I remember right. Sorry to hear it's gone tourist trap. Maybe this has happened everywhere, and I've only become aware of it recently.

    And yes- try the peel apple butter- throw some apples in as well- it's fantastic! It needs about a day in the slow cooker, but it's worth it.