Many natural happenings arrive during the autumn months. The days become shorter as nights grow longer. The air is crisp, bringing frosty mornings. Foliage becomes brown or vibrant hues of reds, oranges and yellows, and farmers reap their final harvests.
Along with that lastly mentioned natural event, the fall harvests, come festivals and celebrations of the old world. Octoberfest is the famous German celebration. In my childhood hometown of Brussels, they celebrate a Belgian tradition known as Kermis. Heck, even the popular autumn holiday, Halloween, is believed to have derived from a harvest celebration, of sorts, as the original celebration is said to have marked the Gothic New Year.
These days, the family farm has given way to larger farms, and our survival through winter doesn’t depend on local harvests. Yet, people celebrate these holidays as much as always. I guess its an excuse to have a party. I missed Octoberfest and Kermiss and will be working during Halloween. Still, I should celebrate….some way, somehow.
So, I think of a harvest that a city dweller would be able to partake in reaping. Of course there is one particular crop, delicious and juicy, that comes to mind. Apples are ripe for the picking in late September and October. So, I’ll find a place, well worth my time and effort, to pick this fruit.
We drive into the cherry lanes orchard’s, which is just off of highway 42 and north of Forestville, and are greeted by a friendly woman. She, of course, naturally assumes we have arrived to pick some apples. We listen to her and discover there are four species of apples to choose from. Gala, Macintosh, Cortland and Honey Crisp are all available for pick your owns.
Picking apples seems something you do for fun with the family or your significant other. That being said, the choice of apples goes to Heidi, and she has never bit into a Honey Crisp apple but has heard good things. That’s the determining factor for her choice, even if its fifty cents more per pound. I should mention, the other species were a dollar a pound and the orchard offers half bushel buckets, which hold around twenty pounds.
We find some cool buckets which are much smaller than the half bushels, and are off towards the Honey Crisp trees. We hike through a field of bare cherry trees and find a little patch of tinier trees with gnarly branches. It’s humorous to see a ladder next to these deciduous dwarfs. I’m actually taller than the tree.
I’m reminded of the old saying ‘as American as Apple Pie’ as I pick these rather large orbs. Where did that saying ever come from, You may ask. One could argue that the saying makes little sense. Recipes for pies, using apples, dates back to Chaucer of England, the US wasn’t even colonized yet. The Dutch were pretty well known for apple pies also. Heck, apple production is more prevalent in china, although the US falls in second place, as the apple tree originated in central Asia.
The sentiment must have been born from Johnny Appleseed, who spent forty years planting apples in the Midwest. The fruit was easy to store and grow, giving settlers a well received addition to their diets. These trees, in Cherry Lanes Orchards, were not planted by Johnny Appleseed, but its kind of cool to think that apples have been a staple in the Midwest going on two hundred years. So, yeah, Apples are pretty darn American.
We pick our share, which isn’t a lot. I figure it will make a great snack for the upcoming work week. The orchard itself is well cared for and, while there may not be a ton of apple trees, the fruit is bountiful.
Amongst the trees stands a rather modern looking scarecrow. I say modern because he’s wearing a reflective work vest, very important that crows see you -even at night. We finish up and make our way to the scale. Settling up with a little cash, there is no debit reader here, we bid our hosts a good day.
While we are celebrating harvests today, there is another place we decide to visit. It’s Renard’s Cheese shop. OK, farmers milk cows all year round, and it’s not really a harvest. However, the harvests sustain cows the whole year through. Not to mention, Cheese is an Identifier when thinking of Wisconsin, at least if you’re from another part of the country.
Renard’s is a unique store that is situated in the middle of nowhere, although it is right on the highway. If you’re heading north on 42 towards you’re destination, which almost every vacationer is, it’s a great little pit stop. They offer gourmet cheeses which I have tried and can attest to their deliciousness. There’s even a sampling bar with gourmet cheeses, sauces and fudges. I ate every cheese they offered, stung my tongue on some habanero sauce and relished the taste of some delectable fudge.
They do serve food with daily specials in a small café off in a corner. We pick up some cheese curds, a little secret kept in Wisconsin, Renards are the most delicious and squeaky than any other I’ve ever tried. Also, I tried Tomato, basil and herb cheese-it was dynamite.