Jeff and I have decided that, as often as we can, each week we’ll do one adventure-y thing here in the Los Angeles area. Earlier, I posted about going to the Santa Monica pier, the La Brea tar pits, and Simon’s first Cards game. Here’s our next adventure. (Also: yay! We’re less than two months behind now!)
As you may recall if you’ve been reading this tripe long enough, we have a less-than-illustrious record of apple picking success. There was the Eckert’s debacle of 2010, followed by the resounding success (that’s not sarcasm) at Mills Apple Farm in 2011. But now we’re not in Missouri, and something told me it would be impractical to fly back to St. Louis just to revisit Mills. So we sought out Los Angeles-area apple picking opportunities instead.
I did a little research and found that there was an apple orchard collective in the mountains way east of the city. I even called one and found out they sold 25-lb boxes of my beloved jonagolds that were allegedly “perfect for canning”.
It all sounds so promising, doesn’t it? (cue ominous music)
So one Saturday we tossed Simon in the back of the car and took off, driving through the whole Inland Empire to get to the orchards. Ever the optimist (HA!) I had visions of all the wonderful California-grown apples I’d obtain, and the quarts upon quarts of applesauce, the cute little half-pints of apple butter, and the cozy jars of pie filling that would soon fill my pantry.
I bet you’ve already figured (spoiler alert!) that things didn’t exactly work out like we’d planned.
The drive out was really exciting: it was my first time getting so close to the mountains! (I LOVE the mountains here. Living near mountains is my new favorite.)
So pretty. Mountains are awesome. They’re cozy.
Jeff-wearing-the-baby may be the new Jeff-perusing-a-map:
(in that I plan to annoy him by taking this exact picture everywhere we go)
The orchard we visited had you-pick raspberries, as well as the apples. And I must confess: I fell captive of the berries’ siren song:
(The raspberries’ song, in case you were wondering, is remarkably similar to this.)
(A real photographer would know to take the picture BEFORE picking off and consuming the ripe berries hanging tantalizingly in front. I am not a real photographer. I took this picture while chewing the aforementioned delicious berries. To be fair, the joy was tainted by my own lack of sense.)
Here’s where things started to go sour. What started out as a pleasantly cozy and overcast morning quickly turned into an imminent threat of rain. And then what started out as an imminent threat of rain quickly became (shockingly) a downpour.
Jeff ran to the car to throw the camera in the trunk (hence no pictures) and fetch our umbrella to shield the baby, while I picked a few more berries in the drizzling rain and felt a kinship with my foremothers, who surely suffered in much the same way lo these many years ago on tiny farms in Missouri and Kentucky.
(My foremothers would, of course, be turning in their graves at this point, because what kind of lady would pay for the privilege to stand in an overpriced, picked-over berry patch wearing soggy jeans? Why didn’t I have the good sense to plant berry bushes of my own, anyway? My foremothers are a judgmental lot.)
ANYWAY (jesus). I picked a couple pints of raspberries in the rain while Jeff stood there laughing at me and getting pricked in the legs by berry brambles, and Simon slept on his chest, and I bemoaned the fact that he wouldn’t even take one teensy little picture of my misery for blogging purposes.
And the raspberries were delicious and sweet, and we paid for them, and retreated to the safety of the car, and I badgered Jeff to press onward toward the orchard shop so I could procure the aforementioned 25-lb boxes of apples.
The downpour, as viewed from the windshield of a 2011 Hyundai Elantra:
Since I doubt you’d believe me on this, otherwise.
Rear view of the screaming baby, most unhappy with the bonds in which he found himself:
One box of apples was procured in short order:
And we set about determining how to spend the rest of this oh-so-lovely afternoon.
One of the other orchards further down the mountain had a Ye Olde Countrye Shoppinge Experience, and the downpour had ended as quickly as it began, so we decided on a late lunch:
Which was located in the optimistically-sloganed Oak Tree Village:
(New rule: anything that proclaims how “fun” it is, is probably not all that fun.)
Say what you will about this whole debacle, it really reminded me one thing I love about California: veggie burgers in country restaurants!
(If we were in Missouri I’d be eating lettuce and ketchup on a white-bread bun).
The food truly was good – either that or we were famished and desperately seeking any silver lining that we could find. But regardless: once we were filled up, we set about exploring the aforepromised “14 acres of family fun”.
We were a family. We wanted to have some fun, dammit. WE WERE THEIR KEY DEMOGRAPHIC.
Right off the bat, I was accosted by a bushelful of greengrocer’s apostrophes:
(Or should I say “greengrocer’s’ apostrophe’s”?)
Actually…I do find grammatical errors fun! Or, more specifically, the bitching about same. One point for Oak Tree Village.
At the late hour of 4:00 on a Saturday, most of the village had already shuttered its doors for the night. So we missed out on the opportunity to procure Avon products, Jesus brochures, or old-timey pictures.
My disappointment knows no bounds.
(ALSO! I just noticed! See that carriage at the left? There were creepy life-sized dummies in old timey clothes ALL OVER THE FUCKING PLACE. I didn’t set out to take any pictures of them because they were so eerie. The whole thing was just bizarre: I kept expecting The Doctor to come running out from behind of one of those stupid little shops, brandishing his sonic screwdriver.)
Luckily for us, one of the shops was still open, and its proprietor had stocked it with only the most exquisite specimens of class and refinement:
MY CHRISTMAS SHOPPING IS DONE. FOR EVERYBODY. (“And YOU get a peeing chihuahua wine bottle holder! And YOU get a peeing chihuahua wine bottle holder! And YOU get a peeing chihuahua wine bottle holder!”)
Then I found a subtle and lawyer-y jacket for Jeff:
And I begged him to buy me this XXL fashion statement:
(“They’re wolves but they’re also purple! And kissing! In front of the moon!”)
Then, having experienced a full 14 acres of fun, we hopped in the car and headed back to South Pasadena. But not before taking one more picture of the mountains:
(With bonus photobomb from our friend Smog)
Jeff got the pleasure of sitting in the car and watching me tromp around trying to get bitten by a rattlesnake:
Pretty sure he’d have left me there, too, with only the slightest provocation.
And Simon screamed the whole way home because apparently the car seat is made of lava.
Guess what I discovered when I got home and cracked open that big ol’ box? I learned that this orchard’s version of seconds is just a wee mite different than the definition held by every other orchard ever. Rather than being just a little small or pale – like the perfectly good apples I got at Mills last year – most of these were wormy and/or bruised.
This is what I looked like upon THAT discovery:
I lost a full 2/3 of the volume just in peeling and cutting out the badness, but was able to make one small batch of applesauce. Which I didn’t even bother to process because it wasn’t worth it. (I’m pretty sure refrigerators were invented for this exact scenario)
So a week or two later I went to the handy-dandy local chain grocery store and picked up 20 lb of galas on sale, from which I got
6 5 quarts of applesauce (one jar burst during processing. GODDAMNIT.)
Talk about anticlimactic, eh? But at least we had fun on the adventure. And next year in DC or wherever, I *will* find a better source for locally-grown apples. ::snaps suspenders:: You betcha!