We had a great apple picking ICO trip to Honey Pot Hill Farms in Stow, MA (right near Sudbury) with 10 middle school boys and 1 staff member from St. Peters (Placido), and 4 volunteers from ICO (Ben, Rucker, Ilana, and Jeff) last Saturday. The boys arrived at the farm in the van around 10am to a crisp, sunny morning. After getting our apple bags and greeting the Big Bear mascot at the apple picking check-in, we circled up for a quick name game and everyone told the group about their favorite apple. A couple of the boys had been apple picking before and gave a demonstration on the proper technique - twist your wrist at the stem to make sure you don't damage the branch! And after quickly consulting our maps, we were off to visit the farm animal pens before the apple hunt.
The orchard had several enclosures with chickens/roosters, pigs, goats, and sheep. The kids had fun putting goat food pellets in a cup that was connected to a pulley system at the top of a goat play pen, where they could turn a crank and dump the contents of the cup into the waiting goats high above! They also really enjoyed feeding the pigs apple cores, and playing in the pumpkin patch to see what was the heaviest pumpkin they could pick up.
After dividing into 2 groups, it was off to pick some apples! It was announced there would be a prize for both the largest and smallest apple picked, so the race was on to find those outlier apples across the whole orchard. The apple trees ranged over acres of hills, and the boys were excited to enter each new area to discover the different varieties of apples, but had to make sure to leave room in their bags until the end so they could pick some of each variety. Some of the boys were a bit overzealous and picked more than would fit in their bag, and managed to fill up their coats with the extras and lugged them all across the orchard until the end of the day (but we were able to divide them up and fill out all the bags in the end without any waste!). A couple boys in the group even began naming their apples after friends, cousins, aunts... and Selena Gomez.
We went through rows of golden delicious, red delicious, macoun, macintosh, empire, cortland, crispin, and many other varieties over the course of the day, and stopped to ask some of the kind orchard volunteers where the trees with the biggest apples might be found, and used the maps to plan our route. The boys had fun climbing the ladders throughout the orchard to get to some of the choice apples high above, and the views of the valley and hills from the top of the highest hills was really great as the day warmed up and the fall colors of the leaves showed through.
After a long walk back with our bags stuffed, we dumped off our apples in the van and all met back at the picnic tables by the pond for a turkey/ham/peanut butter sandwich lunch. After lunch, we all filed in to a hay wagon for a tractor-pulled hayride across the grounds that took us past the hedge maze (sadly not enough time to do - maybe on another trip!) and the orchard store where the cider is pressed and the apple cider donuts are fried. We all met back at the orchard check-in and shared what we enjoyed most about the day (the animals, the apples, hanging out with good friends, the sunny weather that warmed up throughout the day, the fact that no one got lost!), and it was back to St. Peters with a bag full of apples. A good time had by all for a great fall New England outdoors experience.