One of my favorite things to do in the Fall is spend a day at Apple Hill in nearby Placerville, California. Since my children were young, it was a family tradition to pick apples in the abundant orchards, search through the pumpkin patch to gather up the perfect one for the Halloween jack-o-lantern, and as always – eat way too many slices of apple pie, light-as-a-feather turnovers, carmel apples and ooey gooey carmellos!
This year however things were a little different. My daughter who loves Fall as much as I do, lives in Southern California and because of scheduling conflicts, couldn’t make the trip home this year. My son at 14 was not interested in picking apples or going to the pumpkin patch as in the years past, but he did ask, “Mom, can you bring me home a carmello, please?” So I gathered up my gear and headed out solo in hopes of getting some shots of this season’s apple harvest.
beautiful blue skies and a crisp september morning
My first stop was High Hill Ranch. Fortunately for me, the only visitors this early on a Friday morning were myself and a single busload of tourists who were more interested in what the pie shop had to offer than trekking through the orchard. (me: big smile!)
jonathans ready for picking
the crew was so friendly… even pausing to give me a smile or two
The crew sorts through the apples as they are added to the bins and remove any large stems and leaves.
the orchard foreman checking on the fruit-laden trees to determine which ones to harvest next
fresh apple juice for break time refreshment
The cider mill wasn’t running but there were samples of their apple juice to try. delish!
During harvest season, the lake is stocked with trout and on the weekends small children stand side-by-side hoping to catch a fish or two. With the calm water, empty benches and the clear view – the scene was breathtaking…
The machinery for the packing line has been in use since 1942 and is now a one-woman operation. The variety Golden Delicious picked earlier this morning were being boxed up for sale.
a true story – for many years my father worked in the citrus business and on weekends when I was a young girl, I would often accompany him as he made his rounds at the packing house – checking on the fruit in the cooler, the condition of the machinery and taking a moment to touch base with his crew. Driving home one day as we passed the Sunkist juice plant in Orange County, my father asked if I knew how the oranges were made in to juice. I thought about it and answered that the juice was probably made by either people or machines. But I was soon let in on an industry secret – the plant had monkeys working in the juice room! What? Yes, this is true my father assured me. The monkeys would slice the oranges with a knife held in their tails and then use their paws to squeeze the juice from the orange halves. The monkeys were able to produce more juice and faster than any human or machine. I thought this was such a wonderful story and it wasn’t until many, many years later that my father let on that he had been teasing me the way only a father can. The story resurfaces every now and then, and my family has a good laugh over “how steph actually believed monkeys made orange juice at the juice plant.” You know I looked and looked but couldn’t find a single one at High Hill – it must be a citrus thing…
coring the apples to be used in the pie house
fresh dough ready and waiting to be rolled out in to the flakiest of crusts and filled with the morning’s harvest
Fresh from the pie house: apple turnovers, carmel apple pecan pie and a decadent favorite – the carmello… marshmallow nestled within ooey gooey carmel goodness.
When I stopped in a at a popular pumpkin patch, I noticed there were far more blooms than pumpkins. I spoke with a local grower and he said it was a tough season this year and that many farms had small pumpkins available but not as many of the larger ones that we are used to seeing, especially by mid-September.
The grower brought me by the side of his home to show me this pumpkin that he was growing for himself. It isn’t particularly large in size but is perfectly round and the loveliest shade of orange.
I had a wonderful time at one of my favorite places and a big shout-out to the crew at High Hill Ranch for allowing me get the shots I needed to satisfy my seasonal whim! When I returned home, I went up to my son’s room to give him his carmello and to tell him about my day. As I finished sharing my adventures in the orchard with him, he looked at me and said, “You know mom, I was doing some thinking and I really missed out. Can we go to Apple Hill some time soon?” “Sure” I said. “How about next month when the leaves are changing?” ”Okay, he said, “Sounds good!” As I left his room… big, big smile on my face!