going apple picking is something quite autumny in these parts, akin to visiting the pumpkin patch and such. apples don't generally grow in this part of the country, but there is a cute little mountain town called julian not too far away that has a high enough elevation for apples to grow. in fact, one of the things that the town is known best for is their delicious apple pies. our friends dave and j'lene invited us to go apple picking today along with their 2 daughters. immediately, my mind went to apple butter and homemade applesauce and maybe even an apple pie or two. i pictured the children running through the orchard, holding hands amidst the beautiful autumn landscape while we adults laughed and chatted, picking perfectly ripe apples and carefully placing them into a great big box to take home.
here's what actually happened: we were late in meeting our friends (i blame it on samuel.....he ate his lunch entirely too slow) and then, once we got to where the apple orchard was supposed to be, there was nothing but beautiful rolling hills and woods and curving roads for miles and miles and miles. still, we traveled on, missed the turn, made the turn, then missed the next turn and ended up in the parking lot of a winery. we finally found the parking lot for the apple orchard, unloaded the kiddos and began tromping down a very long driveway in search of somebody...anybody with whom to do business. nobody was around and, as the 8 of us walked further down the lane, we began to notice that the odd, rusty junk laying around was actually strange and twisted works of art. j'lene remembered reading on the website that there were sculptures for sale at this particular orchard, but she hadn't really expected sculptures that looked as if they had come straight from the set of edward scissorands. there was a run down shack at the end of the driveway and, just as i was cautiously about to go around it to the front door, i saw what looked like a human head on a pole with black hair trailing down. i literally gasped, then saw that it was just a grotesque halloween mask, but i motioned to everyone behind me to turn back; i didn't want any of the little kids seeing it and freaking out. we decided to turn around and head back to our cars.
meanwhile, sweet j'lene was apologizing profusely for picking such a strange place and i couldn't stop thinking about a nice big slice of julian apple pie with cinnamon ice cream. we were almost back to where we started from when we heard a dog yipping and we saw someone walking towards us. josh said to j'lene, "did they say anything about charles manson owning this orchard on the website?" seriously, he looked like a cross between dog the bounty hunter and captain jack sparrow....and then when he started talking to us, he had a british accent. he told us that there were plenty of good apples still on the trees (even though the smell of rotton, decaying apples was quite strong) and that we could fill a bag for $10. i was already thinking that ten dollars was a little bit more than what i had expected to pay, but then he handed us our bags.....they were barely larger than paper lunch sacks. by this point, i thought we may as well just get the most out of the whole experience, so we payed for our tiny little bags and started out looking for sweet juicy apples. after about 5 minutes, we realized that we'd have to look pretty hard for what we wanted because this is all that we could see:
even when we'd find one that looked perfect, we'd pick it only to discover a gaping brown hole on the other side. i was snapping pictures left and right, realizing the humor in the situation and, i admit, thinking that it may just make an interesting blog post. about half way down the tree lined paths, we found that there were in fact a few apples here and there that hadn't gone bad yet. i took a bite of a golden delicious, expecting it to be sour, but it was really really good! the next aisle yielded lots of great empire apples and before we knew it we had filled our minuscule bags to overflowing and headed back to the entrance where i made sure to snap a few more photos of the interesting art.
we finished the outing off with a stop at mom's pies where, after thoroughly enjoying a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream (i changed my mind from apple to rhubarb at the last minute....i haven't had rhubarb in forever and it reminds me of home), josh happened to notice that a small bag of already-picked apples was selling for $4 a bag. exactly the same size as our $10 bag. still, we figured, you can't really put a dollar sign on an experience like that. it was priceless.
oh yeah, and that holding hands moment that i had pictured in my mind? it happened :)