Apple Picking at Heinz Orchard
On Saturday, Liz and I trekked up to Heinz Orchard, an apple orchard that my friend Anthony runs.
For anyone who remembers the classic Vending Machine Challenge… yes, it’s that same Anthony. Once a proud webmaster for Q101, he traded in pixels for apples, and manages 800 trees, tends bees, and does all manner of farm-related stuff.
It wasn’t really much of a drive at all. Maybe 30 minutes or so, and we were there. In fact, we recognized the exit as it was the same one we took when going to the 2009 Northern Illinois Alpaca Extravaganza.
Liz, with our apple picker.
Me, grabbing my first apple.
Success! After this first time, I kept dropping mine. I got a little better, by the end though.
View of the orchard. The day was pretty overcast, but there were periods where the sun broke through the clouds.
A small pathway between the rows.
Some signs near the entrance. When I spoke with Anthony later, he talked about the difficulties of opening up an orchard to the public. Kids climbing is one thing, but he talked about how there would be 15 or 16 year olds, trying to climb. Of course, that weight would result in broken branches, and apples falling to the ground.
By the time we arrived, many of the low-hanging apples were already taken. Our apple picker was pretty necessary, as there weren’t a lot within reach.
Liz, working the apple picking magic (she was a lot better at this than I was).
I honestly can’t recall the last time I was around an apple tree. It was so neat to be surrounded by so many apples.
There were a lot of apples on the ground, as we were walking around. Anthony told me that some of the trees (I forget which ones) bloomed early, and lots of apples ended up dropping on their own. He estimated he lost a few thousand dollars of apples, due to that.
When we asked if he did anything with the ones that had fallen, he mentioned a few things. Sometimes, he’ll sell them at half price to people. He also sometimes works with a local church, and people come over to pick what they want off the ground. And he’s also donated a lot to a local food pantry.
The small orchard near the front had about 300 trees. We walked up the road a bit, and found another orchard that had about 500.
Anthony, who greeted us and hooked us up with a picker and an extra bag.
Here’s the kind of guy that Anthony is: when he found out we had paid at the first orchard, he immediately went to till and gave us our money back. When we insisted, his response was Fuck you, you’re not paying.
There was a lull with the crowd, and so Anthony gave us a quick tour of the place. We walked around to the back of the house, where he showed us his bee hives.
Anthony, taking a closer look.
He was concerned with this bunching of bees near the entrance. According to him, they only do this when they’re planning on swarming (leaving, and taking the queen with them). He was afraid he’d lose this hive.
I was a bit nervous about getting close, but Anthony assured me it was alright.
These broken limbs and branches were all due to visitors. I was surprised to see how large some of the branches were. People are terrible, sometimes.
A few signs in the garage.
A view of the small barn behind the house.
I’m honestly not sure what this thing is/was. I meant to ask, but forgot.
Walking towards the orchard. The apples on this side were Golden Delicious.
There was something about this large tree that really made me want to photograph it. I imagined it as a place where a kid would go to read a book, where first kisses happened. I really, really liked this tree.
Folks picking Golden Delicious apples.
Based on Anthony’s advice, we went further back (away from the crowds). Lots of apples yet, on the branches.
Closeup, Golden Delicious.
Near the end of our visit, Cathie came by with her daugher Zoe. She was really shy at first, but started to warm up a bit after a while. Incredibly, incredibly cute.
Cathie and Anthony are expecting their second child (a boy), sometime mid-November. The two of them were joking with one another, trying to come to an agreement on a name. Anthony, in his style, wants to give his son a tough name. One of the ones he was leaning towards was “Sunny DeMoon,” which according to him sounded very Mob-like.
For the past several years, I’ve talked about visiting Cathie and Anthony… but never got around to it. I’m really glad we ventured up this weekend, got to do a little apple-picking, spent some time catching up with Anthony… and got to meet his daughter. What a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.