Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Picking Apples, Making Memories

    I am loving this unseasonably warm fall.  It's been a really funny year so far.  The summer was way too hot, then way to cold, then way to rainy.  The fall began that same crazy trend, but this past week-end was absolutely glorious!!!!  I will take the nice weather, because all too soon that stinking snow will be drifting down from the heavens.  Sunday was the perfect day to make that annual pilgrimage to Campbell's Orchards out in Prince Edward County.

    For the last 16 years (since Gabe's nursery school made a class trip there when he was 2) we have religiously made the trip to Campbell's Orchards.  It has this great family feel to it, and believe me the families all flock there.  There is something so wholesome about picking apples.  I think it's that feeling of being connected to our food.  So often because of geography, but mainly convenience most of us no longer have that connection to the land.  Instead we go to the grocery store and just pick our food from shelves.  There is no taste like that of an apple right off of the tree.  It has this warm, sweet, juicy goodness to it.  You never ever get that same taste again, even from apples that you have picked yourself and eaten later that night.

    Campbell's Orchards is just a nice place to take the family to pick apples.  I have heard from many people who live in the city that when they make the drive to their closest apple orchard, there are apple Nazi's that work/ own the place.  They watch with strained eyes to make sure that no one eats a single apple that they have not paid for.  I'm glad that's not the case at Campbell's.  Otherwise they would have a big poster with my husband's picture on it saying not to admit this man to the orchard.  As I have already said, there is nothing quite so pure or delicious as an apple picked right off of the tree and eaten right then and there, and Christopher takes full advantage of it.

    It really is a beautiful tradition.  Every year Christopher hoists the kids up on his shoulders, every year I think "this is going to be the year that big dummy puts his back out!"  He always just shakes his head at me, "As long as I can lift them, I'm going to!"  Up they go, nearly to the top of that apple tree, trying to get the most perfect apple.  I have to admit, it is beautiful, and it will cause a tear to fall from my eye when they all become too big to be hoisted up.  Poor Gracie is now too big, and I see her looking longingly at the smaller kids being hoisted up on Daddy's shoulders.

    The other part of our Campbell's tradition is to take a wagon ride.  I love wagon rides of any kind.  There is something so hypnotic and peaceful about the rocking of the wagon (maybe that's just the exhaust fumes that cause that sensation).  I love that uncomfortable feeling of the bales, the inevitable pricking of the straw into my legs.  I love the way the kid's cozy up (mostly to avoid the strangers).  I love the way they make themselves comfortable, using our backs to support themselves.  It's that intense feeling of comfort and trust.

    The wagon ride takes us on a tour of the property.  We drive through the gardens,  making a stop at the pumpkin patch.  There people jump off the wagon and clammer through the field looking for the perfect pumpkin.  Every year I am tempted by those big orange delights, shining in the frost killed field.  Then I remember the year that I fell for it (ok there was more than one year, but for argument's sake, and to avoid looking too stupid, we'll say I fell for it once).  I had bought pumpkins and stored them outside, they rotted.  I had to buy more pumpkins closer to Halloween.  I always need to remind myself of this at this time of year.
    After we drive through the pumpkin patch we drive into the orchard.  Trees laden with bright red globes stand before us.  The wagon once again stops so that everyone can hop off and pick an apple off of the tree.  Always we are reminded the right way to pick an apple.  Always pick it "Eye to the sky".  Eye to the sky, means gently turn it upside down, and give it a gentle twist.  When the tractor starts up again we are sitting on the hay bales, happily biting into those warm fresh apples.  The juice inevitably is spraying everywhere, which makes it all the better.

    After our wagon ride, and after we had picked our 20 pound bag of Empire / Mac's we found our way over to the animals.  The massive pot bellied pig always draws a crowd.  For me, this year it was the hilarious duck.  He / she looked like he/ she was wearing a wig.  It looked like it should be wearing a polyester suit and hosting a 1970's game show.  I sat and laughed and laughed, and may very well looked to passers by like an escaped lunatic.  I kept shouting out "Oh look at it's wig" in between uncontrollable doubled over laughter.  At one point during one of my outbursts I was muttering incoherently about the "hair" when a bald man walked by and shot me a very dirty look.  Apparently he thought I was making fun of him, which of course made me laugh all the harder, it's the little things.

    The other part of our apple picking tradition (like there aren't enough already), is I make the kids pose with the pumpkins and take a picture (so it's not really 'a' picture so much as it's dozens of pictures from dozens of different angles).  This year they are all getting older, and really did not want to pose for their picture in the pumpkins.  That's the nice thing about being their mother, and their ride home, I can make them do things.  There was lots of complaining and eye rolling, but I got my picture. O.k., Life magazine is not going to calling me anytime soon begging me to let them use my pumpkin picture for their front cover, but I got my picture.  I have pictures of a two year old Gabe sitting on top of a pumpkin, then a seven year old Gabe, holding a baby Grace in front of the pumpkins, those pumpkins not only act as decoration, but mark the passing of time.  

    There will come a day that my kids won't come to the apple orchard with me.  That day will break my heart, but it will come.  I know that soon Grace will not be bullied into sitting with those pumpkins, she's growing up too quickly.  My kids are growing up.  I have beautiful (and some not so beautiful) pictures to mark the passing of the years.  I have beautiful children and beautiful memories of our visits to Campbell's Orchards.

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