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Question: What do you get when you mix a little red wagon, two happy kids, and an apple orchard?  Answer: A morning full of family fun.

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We had the best afternoon, that we have had in a long time.  With rain and cooler weather on the horizon we decided to get outside for a bit.  I decided that it would be fun to visit a local apple orchard.  I have fond memories of picking apples with my mom and sister, when we were kids in California.  I looked up local “pick-your-own” farms in Minnesota, there are a ton of them here. Deardorff Orchard stood out, and I figured that it was close enough that we could go do our thing after ice skating class, and still get home before any spontaneous behavior meltdowns occurred.  So off we went. 

The orchard is about a mile from Hwy 5, on a little dirt road. It is near Parley Lake.  The kids were super excited that we drove on a dirt road.  That should be some indicator as to the amount of time that we actually spend hanging out in nature.  Anyway, when we arrived, we started our adventure in the little red barn.  We tasted several types of apples and pears, drank some yummy apple cider (an opinion not shared by my children), and got loaded up with bags for collecting apples. I was surprised that neither of the kids liked the apple cider.  Ethan especially liked the special little crab apple.  He enjoyed it so much, that he ate the core and all.  I always thought that crab apples were sour and not good to eat.

After we learned that the Harelson or McIntosh variety of apples would be the best for baking, we headed out to start picking.  On our way in from the parking lot, we had seen several kids in little red wagons.  This would be a must have, if apple picking was to be successful.  We got ourselves a little wagon and we were off.  The orchard is not terribly big, so we headed out into the trees.  Andrew pulled the wagon.  We love him for his muscles! Maya opted to walk with me while, Ethan chose the riding option.  Maya may be a very insightful child.  Not even a few steps into the orchard there is a nice little hill.  Andrew and Ethan had fun playing roller coaster in the wagon.  This is not Maya’s forte. 

Anyway, the orchard sits on an amazing property, with views of the hills, the lake, and the surrounding farms.  In addition to the orchard, there is also a vineyard on the property.  We toured the grounds and then made our way back to the Harelson apple trees.  The kids indulged my need to take too many pictures, and then they started picking.  Each of the kids picked 8 apples.  At $2.50/lb, I thought we had better limit the number of apples.  We picked enough to make two pies.  The kids got a kick out of deciding which apples had “birdy bites” out of them, and which would be suitable for our baking endeavours. 

After the picking was done, we headed back towards the little red barn.  Close to the barn, there is a haystack for climbing and a small fenced area with animals.  Maya rushed to the top of the haystack.  Apparently, her fear of heights is limited.  I guess if she feels like she is in control, she does just fine.  She stood at the top of the stack and pretended to be the Statue of Liberty.  What a crack up!  Ethan was more interested in the antique tractor and the animals.  He really wanted to feed the animals, but settled for climbing the fence to get a better look instead. 

Next, we took a tractor ride on a flat bed.  The drive is the orchard owner.  His beautiful black lab followed beside the tractor for the entire ride. 

We finished off our adventure at the wine tasting facility.  Andrew tasted wine, while I enjoyed hot dogs with the kids.  At first, I was mildly annoyed that I was paying $3.50 for a barbecued Ball Park hot dog on a cheap bun, no drink or chips included.  However, with the chill that was in the air, and my kids by my side, I am pretty sure that I have never had such an unforgetable hot dog.