Posted by: charityliz | November 9, 2011


Last Saturday, I woke up thinking it was the perfect day to go apple picking.  The air was crisp, the autumn leaves were turning…and let’s face it,  I had nothing better to do.

Going to an apple farm in the Fall is something I loved as a kid.  My family would load into the car and drive to the small mountain community of Oak Glen in So. Cal.  When my grandpa took us, I always got to pick out a candied or caramel apple from the Sweet Shop, and we would often make an apple pie when we got home.  Later, when I was “all grown up”, I still found my way to apple farms in the Fall.  One of my favorite apple farm experiences was during a visit I made to Boston.  And of course, living on the Central Coast for the past several years, I was spoiled to have See Canyon apples at my fingertips and there discovered my favorite varietal, Braeburns–which pretty much taste like apple cider in solid form.

So anyway, I decided it was time to do my “fall thing” and go to an apple farm on Saturday.  And I thought it might be fun to invite my two little buddies (my neighbors in the apartment below me) and their Mom.  They jumped at the invitation, and before we knew it we were on our way.

I selected Swanton Ranch, a U-pick farm run by Cal Poly. Of course, Poly will always have a special place in my heart, but i also figured those Poly Ag students were bound to produce some good apples.  Plus I was excited that it was U-pick farm; the kids would love that!

It took us a bit longer than I thought to get there–about an hour and a half drive.  We weren’t even on the road for 20 minutes when little Sam asked from the back seat, are we there yet?  But we made the best of the drive, pointing out the dramatic coast line, waves and lighthouse as we traveled  Hwy 1 between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. Finally we turned off the highway and winded down a country road for about four miles.

I was expecting a sizable apple farm with a fair amount of people picking away, but instead, I literally drove right past our destination.  When I looped back around, we found a small unassuming farm–maybe two acres of apple trees. We quickly realized that this wasn’t much of an “operation” at all.  No one was around, and the place was completely empty, but there was still an “Open” sign hanging on the front gate.  As we entered, we realized that they take “U-pick” to a whole new level at this place.  It’s pretty much U-let yourself in, U-pick, U-weigh your apples, U-pay, U-give yourself your own change, and U-shut the gate behind you on the way out.

OK, that’s fine, I can deal with that.  I don’t need service.  Let’s go pick some apples!

The kids were literally running to the first rows of trees, so excited to finally be picking apples.  I’m not sure if they even knew what to expect.  This was their first time to an apple farm, and they patiently endured the long car ride, totally trusting that if it was my idea to go apple picking, it would surely be fun!  But as we approached the first row of trees, we found no apples, and then the second and third row of trees showed no signs of fruit either!  I suddenly panicked, and as I looked down the line of about fifteen rows of trees, it seemed pretty barren, and I began to wonder if we would find any apples.

My panic mounted as I glanced to a large pile of rotting apples dumped on the ground at the very edge of the orchard — like the last bins of apples were picked, kept for as long as possible, and finally tossed to become part of next year’s mulch pile. The kids kinda lost the spring in their steps as well, realizing that apple picking might mean picking apples off the ground at this point.  Bless their hearts, they actually still found some “good ones” on the ground.

Desperate, and praying for a miracle–something like the fish and loafs–I continued down each row of trees.  Finally, around the tenth row, we found actual apples on trees!  Eureka!  Forget the fact that these apples were small, somewhat deformed, and nearing the over-ripe stage.  Forget all that!  I was just so excited to see apples on trees!   –and so were the kids!  You would have thought that they found the most beautiful apples on the world.  We seized the moment and picked to our hearts delight, somehow managing to find about 20 pounds of apples on just a few trees.  We even taste-tested as we picked, and surprisingly the apples were really delicious!  Sam even lost a tooth after biting into an apple; didn’t seem to phase him though!

On the ride back home, we stopped along the coast to get some fresh air and check out the waves.  It’s funny how these kids get so excited just to get out of the car and look at the ocean.  It was such an big moment for them, because they really don’t get to go on outings much at all.  And for me, I love the ocean, but it was just a blessing to spend the day with them.

Now, no roadtrip with kids is complete without some sort of potty or carsick snafu. I thought we hit that moment when Sam had to go pee, but was afraid to use the porta potty because he thought he’d fall down the hole. But the real  moment came later…we were only about 20 minutes from home, when Lucia called from the backseat with little warning– Sam is about to — Blllhhhahhhhahh.  Before she could finish, Sam was already barfing.  And he barfed a LOT of apples.  At one point, I tried to get out of the car and come to his aid in the backseat (from the side door).  But as I was holding the sweatshirt for him to barf into, I started having sympathy heaving.  It’s crazy how that happens and it’s seriously uncontrollable.  I literally had to turn my head the other way as I held him, because I was about to lose all my apples!  Meanwhile, his mom is on the other side, looking straight at him, comforting him and not even flinching. How does she do that??

Other than that slight hang up, it was a grand day.  The kids thanked me for the fun and I thanked them.

Monday night, I got home from work and looked at the huge bag of apples in my fridge, and imagined the huge bag of apples in the fridge downstairs.  So I decided to make the whole experience complete by making an apple pie. I invited the kids upstairs and they had a ball using the apple/peeler/corer contraption and rolling out the pie dough.  They “helped me” every step of the way. We even got crazy with baking the apple skins (which are quite yummy if tossed in sugar and cinnamon and baked for 20-30 minutes).  Halfway through all these shanannigans, their Mom & I decided to pour ourselves a much needed glass of wine.  We eventually finished crafting the pie.  The kitchen was a disaster, but the pie turned out beautifully.

Thanking God for a wonderful little family downstairs and all the joy they bring to my life, just by enjoying the simple stuff together.



  1. Oh Charity, what lucky little kids they are! btw…were you able to clean up the car????

  2. ANNNND….your pie looks GREAT!

  3. hahaha i remember it was you who showed me the trick to solving the mushy apple crisp problem!!

  4. I hope one of those pies magically appears at your parents house next week! Yum!

  5. I definitely was laughing out loud at the upchuck part.

    I loved reading about your apple adventures!

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