5 Lessons from the Orchard
Going to the apple orchard is a yearly pilgrimage in our household. It just doesn’t feel like fall without that first bite of golden sweetness. But going to the orchard can become a drudgery if plans are loosely made. Before you know it, you’ve spent the entire week’s grocery budget on apples and another week at the bouncy pillow and corn maze. If you’re really having a rough time, you end up alone in the orchard holding everyone else’s overpriced bags of fruit, slapping flies away with your elbow and wondering why you keep coming back. One time, I was so frustrated I retreated to the donut shop and ate an entire bag of donuts while waiting for my family to return from the corn maze. Perhaps you’ve been tempted to do the same? Before you decide to leave the orchard experience for good, let me share five lessons from the orchard that may bring back the joy of this autumnal family adventure.
Lesson #1: Know where you are going
Knowing how to get to the orchard is a simple step. But do you know where you will go once you get there? Use the orchard’s website or call ahead to find out what activities are available during your time there. Then plan your day accordingly. Picking apples first may seem the most likely route, but consider doing the other activities first. You’ll be glad you did when you get to lesson #4. My oldest son loved to know exactly what the schedule was so we would talk through it as we drove. It may even be fun to let your older children create the agenda the day before. When you get to the orchard, your plans may still flex a bit, but you’ll have a basic idea where you are going and when.
Lesson #2: Invite friends
The orchard is a great place to take another family or perhaps a college student, longing for home. Each year we “adopt” a few college students and bring them with us. We usually buy extra apples and cider donuts and divvy them up at the end of the day. The joy is worth every penny. Besides, if you have younger children, having along a few more adults makes the time go smoothly.
If you decide to invite another family, be sure you let them know the schedule you’ve decided on for your kids. Also, consider driving in the same car as the drive time is a terrific way to connect. If you must drive two cars, here’s a novel idea: put all the kids in one car and let the dads drive, moms drive with the kids on the way home.
Lesson #3: Plan your budget
Going to the orchard is an investment. For years we used a cash envelope system for our budget. We often chose to use grocery money for the apples and entertainment money for the activities. If you prefer debit card, be sure to plan what you will spend, or you may walk out needing to get an extra job. Calling ahead or perusing the website to find out costs for apples and activities will help you decide your must do’s. For example, we’ve discovered an orchard that sells apples by the bushel for $40.00 vs another orchard that sells 1/2 peck bags for 15.00. We now travel the extra twenty minutes to get to the orchard that sells by the bushel.
Planning your budget will help you enjoy your day. Involving your children in the decision making may work for some families and not for others. But you may want to inform your children of the activities you are choosing not to do this time. For example, I was shocked to discover how much my eight-year-old son wanted to ride the ponies at one orchard. Though we rode that year, it meant not doing the corn maze. The next year we went with greater confidence, and my then nine-year-old passed on the ponies knowing how much he’d missed the corn maze the year before.
Lesson #4: Don’t get left holding the bag
Seasoned orchard goers know the feeling of sitting at a picnic table with bags of apples while everyone is off riding ponies or navigating the corn maze. It took me several years, but I finally figured out that picking apples should always be the second to the last thing we do. The last purchase for us is apple cider donuts. A warm delicious donut on the car ride home wraps up a perfect day at the orchard. Or better yet, save those sweets for a treat later that evening.
Lesson #5: Pies and tarts
Each year, I reserve the following Saturday after apple picking as a baking day. I invite the same college students or family over, and we make pies and tarts together. There’s something beautiful about teaching others how to make a perfect pie crust and crimp the edges of tarts. Be sure to have several stations going at once. You’ll want one team peeling and cutting apples while another makes crust and still another mixes the apples with cinnamon and sugar. Switch up the teams mid-way so everyone gets a turn at each station. Though it takes planning and requires at least three hours of your Saturday, the opportunity to be together and learn from one another is worthwhile.
I’m certain you’ve learned a thing or two from your own orchard adventures. We’d love to hear from you. Share your favorite orchard stories with us below!
Joleen Steel is the curriculum specialist for Camping Stick Kids. She has a B.A. in elementary education. She taught public school for ten years before deciding to open her own music studio and homeschool her boys. Joleen is a pastor’s wife and grew up as a pastor’s kid. Her love for the good news of Jesus Christ flows out of her and into the camping stick kids curriculum. Her easy style and creative approach to teaching will encourage your student to learn the Gospel story and be able to share the good news with their friends and family. Joleen would love to have you visit the camping stick kids website and blog. Come say hi at campingstickkids.org and www.readingwritingtea.com