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Monday, October 10, 2011

Apples and the Fun of the Fall

I have a complicated relationship with apples.  Give me a fresh, cold Honeycrisp and I'll munch away.  Ask me if I want an apple, and I am sure to say, "no".  Give me a piece of cold apple pie and I'll eat it up and ask for seconds.  Ask me if I like apple pie and I'll say "no".  Who knows what my problem with apples is, but I never actually crave an apple, or an apple dessert, until I have it in my hands.

This time of year, apples are, of course, everywhere.  We are in the midst of apple season!  Until two or three years ago, we had what I think must have been the best apple orchards ever just up the road.  I speak of Tom's Orchard.  Tom's was a family place.  It had been owned and run by the same couple, with the help of their children before they grew up, for decades.  It was a neatly kept operation - cozy farmhouse with attached garden, red sheds and barns, tractors, an apple juice press and row upon row of apple trees.  It was enough to inspire me to eat pounds of apples.  They had at least twenty varieties, and advertised them on a huge board that listed their seasons.  Tables were covered in boxes of fruit, with plates of sliced samples for all to enjoy...  just don't enjoy them as much as one of my little sons did, earning a reprimand from the usually friendly "Mrs. Tom".  Perhaps my favorite part of the Tom's experience were the signs posted along the way as you exited...  "Please don't pick the apples as you leave!"  I wouldn't have thought of doing that if it weren't for that sign...  It was hard not to resist plucking just one Heirloom Newton's Cox Orange Spice Pippin (I made that name up...  I think.).

The Old Tom's Orchard
Where did all those apple trees go?

The story of Tom's doesn't have a happy ending, I am afraid.  Inexplicably, the owners sold the property one year and, almost instantly, every single one of those beautiful apples trees was cut down.  The house is still there, the property hasn't been developed (thank goodness), but there's not a single, solitary apple tree in sight.

A happier situation exists at Detering Orchards, also near Eugene.  It's also a family operation and has probably been around even longer than Tom's.  Also comprising a big farmhouse and even bigger red barn, Detering's has a huge selection of apples.  Too look at their website is to learn that there are so many good choices for apples, and each one is good for something different.

Just a week ago, Detering's hosted their annual "Apple Daze" harvest party.  Hundreds of people converged on the farm to pick apples, take hay rides and buy pumpkins.  Free apple cobbler was also on offer. 

Apple Daze at Detering Orchards

Some fun people to visit Apple Daze with!

Decorations at Apple Daze
OK, I had to throw this one in here...
Max's first pumpkin experience!
It's events like these that make the season even more fun, even cozier, than any other time of year.  October, November and December offer some of the best times to enjoy the outdoors (visits to farms and orchards, hay rides to pick the perfect pumpkin, "haunted" corn mazes, brisk walks after big dinners, rain on umbrellas and stomping in puddles, watching storms at the beach, looking at Christmas lights...  who says the fall and winter are only for indoor pursuits?).  Take a look around and see what's on offer where you live.

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