Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trip to the Apple Orchard!

The girls and I had our first homeschooling field trip, and we went all out for our first one... we went to another state! We had been to an apple orchard here in Georgia, but it was much more of an entertainment venue than I was looking for this time around. This time, I wanted something where the people would talk to the kids about how a farm works, how apple trees grow, etc. So Chris's mom found this orchard online - Shade Tree Farms. They are located about 45 minutes northwest of the Nashville area. Since Chris's parents live there, we would be able to stay with them overnight. Chris really didn't need to take any more days off from work now, so it was just Caroline, Cecilia, and me making the almost four hour drive... first time I have done that alone with them! It was pretty tiring, but worth it!

When I talked to one of the owners of the orchard, Sarah, she explained that this was a working farm and that they stressed the educational aspect of it rather than being an amusement attraction, which is just what I wanted. There was a moms' group scheduled to visit on Friday, and she said we could join in with their group rather than coming on a day with a large school group. Well, on Thursday night it was sprinkling a bit (I know because I was outside in it at the Tonic concert downtown - while the girls were sleeping; don't tell them! ;), but by Friday morning there was a pretty steady rainfall. So the moms' group cancelled, but we went anyway... having already made the four hour trip, going another 40 minutes in the rain wasn't too big a deal!

So, we knew we most likely wouldn't be able to pick any apples ourselves due to the rain, but Sarah said we were welcome to come on and they would be there, so we could still buy apples at least.

Here are some of the trees through the rain...

It was very nice of them to allow us to have a private session at the orchard! If there had been a whole group there, we would have rotated through a few different stations, but we still got to do pretty much everything - and with personal attention since we were the only ones! First, Sarah read a book to the girls about how apples grow.

Caroline and Cecilia colored Johnny Appleseed pictures. Caroline also got a diagram of the parts of an apple tree and of the cycle of how apple trees come from seeds and eventually produce fruit which contains more seeds. They talked about how the blossoms fall off the trees and leave the beginnings of apples in their place.

They looked at photos of apple blossoms and apples on the trees in the orchard, too.

They got to do an apple craft - making an apple magnet. Chris's mom is helping Cecilia put hers together. An interesting side note... Chris's mom and Sarah were talking about the Nashville area and discovered they knew some of the same people - and then they figured out that Sarah was the daughter of Chris's fifth grade teacher - what a funny coincidence!

Both girls got to take home a souvenir bag which contained an apple farm coloring book, some stickers, and an "apple sipper." They are obsessed with the sippers... they have been drinking out of them whenever they have a chance!

Cecilia samples the fresh, homemade apple cider (it is kept in the fridge behind her until it is purchased).

Here the girls are being shown by Sarah's husband, Tom, how the old apple cider press works. They use this one to let people press their own cider... or you can buy it already pressed.

This one is hand-powered... turning the crank makes a wheel turn inside, and it has sharp prongs sticking out which grind up the apples. then they fall through into a bucket that has open slats in it...

... and the cider flows into the tray at the bottom. The larger chunks of apple stay behind in the bucket (which they also line with a mesh bag to strain the cider even more), while the cider flows out through the notch in the tray and into a bucket which you would place on the floor below the tray.

To the right, you can see the larger, electric cider press. They use this one to make large batches of cider to bottle and sell.

The girls on the front porch

Caroline stands by some crates of freshly-picked apples. These had been picked the day before... none had been picked yet this day due to the rain. However, there were still enough in the crates that we could buy a half bushel. We also bought some cider.

Here is a view of one of the trees on our way out... the rain was coming down too much for us to go wandering among the trees, unfortunately. Maybe one year in the future we'll get to actually pick some apples ourselves!

Here's all the stuff they got at the orchard, spread out on the table when we got home. Thank you for a fun, informative trip, Shade Tree Orchard!!


Carrie said...

Yeah, we're skipping Hillcrest Orchards this year too! ha ha.
That one looks so fun! What times of the year are they open? We go to Nashville fairly regularly, several times a year.

Erin said...

Carrie, they are open starting whenever the apples are ripe, around Sept. 1, I think. They have a blog on their site and I think that is where they put updates like that. They are open for school groups by appointment on weekdays, so you could tag along w/ a school group, or you can go as a family on a weekend when they are open to the public. I would love to go back sometime when we would be able to pick our own apples and then turn some of them into cider!

Lisa said...

What a great trip! The pictures are wonderful and what a nice treat to have all of that personal attention. :-)