Fall finally arrived last week, and with it the cool, crisp weather that makes me nostalgic for the Apple Farm. Farther away from home than I’ve ever been, I got it in my head that I wanted to find some place to pick apples. John, my dear heart, is a good sport and thought that might be fun. So Saturday morning, at the crack of dawn (well, okay, at the crack of 10), we packed ourselves into the car and headed for Stow, for a place called Honey Pot Hill Orchards.
The orchard had been chosen over all other orchards for a couple of reasons. First: they gave us the price of the apples online, which was significantly cheaper than $2.50/lb and did not require a $14 ticket for each adult to get into the farm. Apparently, close to the city, u-pick farms are run like amusement parks, i.e., expensively. The second qualifier was that, of the slightly more distant and therefore affordable farms, Honey Pot Hill had the most professional website. John liked that feature, and it turned out to be a pretty good indicator of the farm’s general atmosphere. It was incredibly well-run.
The value of their organization wouldn’t have been as noticeable in Maine, but it made a world of difference in Stow. I had been joking about apple farms as amusement parks before we went picking. Now, I’m serious. They had a large number of people directing parking, in the same way the Skowhegan fair does, with a proportionately large parking lot. Hayrides ($1 per person) acted much like the Disney shuttles, carrying families between the parking lot, the orchards, and the farm store. The line to buy your bag for apples was long, but moved quickly, because you could purchase only small bags, large bags, and hayride tickets.
The orchards were absolutely idyllic, even with the crowds. Instead of picking hooks, they provided tapered wooden ladders—everywhere you looked, kids and dads were climbing in the trees. And when we got around to the farm store, the apple cider donuts were amazing. Stow is a pretty nice town, too—we decided that it wouldn’t be a bad sort of place to settle some day.
The only trouble with the delightful romp is this: one batch of delicious apple crisp and one batch of overcooked apple butter later, I’ve barely touched the amount we bought. I don’t suppose anyone has a fail-proof, super-fast trick for peeling apples?