Picking a Peck

 We did not take the Mini to the Piedmont area last week; we used instead my wife’s larger SUV.  A tighter fit for 4 adults and lots of birthday presents, the Mini stayed home.  This was our annual visit to Carter Mountain, a Charlottesville area orchard spot near Jefferson’s home – Monticello.  It was a gorgeous day on top of the mountain, even with a consistent high wind and accompanying chill.

We had three October birthdays to celebrate, so my daughter drove down to meet us there with the two grandsons. (Her husband and daughter stayed behind with an upset stomach.)  7 of us converged at a beloved, family-memory-filled apple orchard to honor an 80-something, a 50-something, and a 6-year-old.

Apple picking has changed quite a bit from what we experienced when we had little ones.  No more long poles with claws are allowed.  To cut down on the congregation of people around the cash registers during and post-Covid, the orchard now requires apple pickers to pre-pay for a specific amount of apples.   After paying, we received the empty bag that holds that amount, and went to fill it in the orchard.   It amused me that the bags were printed with either “1 peck” or “1/2 peck.”  No pickled peppers to pick for these peck-sized bags, only Staymans and Fujis.

Apple cider, apple cider fried donuts, pumpkins, and now flights of hard cider are all available.  I saw more candy than in years prior.  The general store is loaded with jams and jellies, honey, relishes, country décor, and toys and books for children.  Picnic tables fill the deck and the back yard of the store where we enjoyed our cider, looking out over the rolling hills of Charlottesville.  Even though it is miles away, it doesn’t take me long from this vantage point to find the white dome of the Rotunda, the neo-classical marvel of my alma mater, the University of Virginia. 

Although we had a sunny day on our latest visit, even a grayer day provides a great view from Carter Mountain.

Fortunately, we had chosen a Tuesday to beat the crowds.  Paid tickets with reservations are now required on the weekends.

Funny, I prefer store-bought organic apples.  It’s not that I don’t like the experience of apple-picking; I do.  I enjoy it enough to dedicate this post to it.  I highly recommend this beautiful, wholesome, back-to-nature experience to everyone.  But I don’t end up with apples that I enjoy.  How do we get so many good apples to our grocery stores here in the US?  Looking at this local orchard here in Virginia, it amazes me that any reach the stores at all.  The bad apples were on the ground, and the good apples were either out of reach, or pre-picked for an effortless purchase.   I read years ago that the crabapple was the only indigenous apple to the US; America’s apples must come from numerous orchards that I never see.

This orchard seems to lose a huge number of apples on the ground.  I’m sure they have a “recovery” use, such as animal feed, or something else, but they tell us not to pick those up.  I usually spend a moment or two helping my family members avoid a bee or two, but I didn’t see any this year.  Bees like those bruised apples on the ground.  So does my three-year-old grandson, but he got the message after a few reminders.

Probably the most interesting thing I saw was a line of new saplings.  Standing about 5 feet tall, well protected by posts and caution lines were baby apple trees.  It’s great to see that this orchard will continue to thrive for future generations.  Perhaps my grandchildren will bring their children one day.

Orchard therapy can effectively brighten the day.  Take a drive.  Enjoy a hilltop view.  See some autumn colors.  Taste some crisp air, and hopefully some crisp apples.  I think the Mini might have been jealous of this latest shift; I’ll take it somewhere special soon.

#ASD #appleorchards #autism #CarterMountain

Published by Bart Shoaf

Blogging about victories and challenges as a middle-aged man with a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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