It's September, and already autumn is spitting game in Madison. Schools have captured all the children. Coats have captured all our tans. Night has captured our voices swearing at the thermostat. The elements might try to scare me from havin' fun outside, but guess what, fall? You can't hold me. I went apple picking, punk!
I grabbed my friend Paul and high-tailed it to Appleberry Farm in Cross Plains. We entered the small barn next to the orchard to get a lesson on the pickin' process. We were given gathering bags and shown the ripeness map. As we attempted to listen to the girl at the counter, a spicy scent tickled our sinuses and halted all brain function. We left the barn in a daze and made way for the apple trees.
Stoned on apple aroma, we craned our necks towards the sweet orbs that hung above our heads.
"So... how do we do this?" I wondered aloud.
"Not sure -- should we call someone?" my friend asked.
We searched the area for clues, but there was no one in our quadrant to glean answers from. Instead, we glanced downward and found something else -- the underbelly of the apple-picking world. Dead apples lay at our feet, their fruit corpses brown and oozing!
A small child suddenly appeared with a bag, turning our attention away from the catastrophe under our soles. The boy walked to his father, who picked a pinkish apple off the tree and handed it to his son. The boy's trek back to his bag felt like an eternity -- would Eve's temptation find its way into the paper container or be lost to the grass-covered abyss?!
I looked away with purpose in my eyes -- I would save as many apples as I could from wretched, ant-encrusted death. I valiantly went from tree to tree, snatching the most innocent apples I could find, but I was not always met with thanks from the fruit.
"Almost every time I go to pick one, there is a bug hanging out on it--or in the one I choose. What's with that?" I asked Paul.
"You have the proclivity of a bug," he said, matter-of-factly, as he kicked the ground and looked around aimlessly. While I was saving apple-kind, Paul was having an existential crisis with natural selection.
"None of 'em are really red; they're all dull looking...," he complained.
"That's because they aren't all buffed up and wax-covered like in the store. They're au naturel here," I explained. Paul shrugged and plopped a few in his bag.
"I know, but I want them to speak to me. There are so many--how am I to know what ones to pick?" We meandered over to the green apples and he cheered up a bit. He ascended a tree, his 6'1" frame lost in shrubbery. The plant shook apples off branches as he climbed, "Ow, dammit! Ow -- oh God!" he cried.
I looked up at him quizzically, his head hidden behind leaves, "I am trying to get that one," he claimed. His finger peeped out behind a leaf, pointing at a sole apple that hung past his outstretched grasp. "I think I... maybe...no... I can't... ugh." He jumped down perturbed.
"Apple picking is like dating. I-I-I don't wanna talk about it," he said, irritated.
After that, we went back to the barn. I bought my mini-bushel of apples and felt like pop-culture savior Angelina Jolie. Paul threw down his partially filled bag and made his payment.
Apple picking might be fun and games for some, but there is a whole lot more to it than just pulling edibles off a plant for the purpose of impaling them with a stick and slathering them with caramel. There are numerous orchards and other farms for picking apples, pumpkins and other harvest season foodstuffs around southwestern Wisconsin. Those with an online presence include:
- Blue Skies Farm in Brooklyn
- Bures Berry Patch in Barneveld
- Carandale Farm in Oregon
- Country Bumpkin Farm Market in Wisconsin Dells
- Door Creek Orchard in Cottage Grove
- Eplegaarden Orchard in Fitchburg
- Eugster's Farm Market in Stoughton
- Foster's Fall Harvest in Marshall
- Green's Pleasant Springs Orchard in Stoughton
- Hermanson Pumpkin Patch in Edgerton
- Mayr Family Farm in DeForest
- Sutter's Ridge in Mount Horeb
- The Tree Farm in Cross Plains
- Treinen Farm in Lodi
- Turkey Ridge Organic Apple Orchard in Gays Mills
- Willow Glen Farm in Belleville
More details -- including locations, hours, and contact information -- about pick-your-own farms throughout the region are available here, here, here, and here, where you, too, can learn about more about yourself through picking.
Due to seasonal changes in harvest, make sure to call for up-to-date info in picking times. So save a nose, pick an apple.