Last weekend we began Fall. Seasons in our household are flexible, and they do not really begin until I have declared a season “open.” Once committed to a season I commit properly, however don’t ever expect to see the twee scarecrows Americans are so fond of appearing in my house. Pumpkins, leaves, candy corn, wreaths, burlap, I’m open to it all, but the flannel wearing scarecrow is too much for my English sensibilities. Every time I see one, I say to myself “what would the Dowager Countess say?”
This Fall our activities are largely being dictated by what stickers I have. My boyfriend kindly spoilt me earlier in the year with a large selection from my favorite scrapbook company, October Afternoon, and so we have to accomplish quite a lot this Fall. Apple picking, pumpkin patching, sweater wearing, pie baking, cider sipping, all must be done so that I can use my stickers. As I said, when I commit to a season, I don’t do it half-heartedly.
Fall in New England is one of the most glorious sights in the world. It is more beautiful than pictures suggest, and more magical than any guidebook can describe. The air is crisp and the church spires and cobbled streets of Boston sparkle in the dazzling light of the low autumn sun. After six years in New England, the sight of the leaves still never fails to take my breath away. “The Colors,” as they call it, is serious business; there are leaf tours, train rides through the mountains, Fall foliage festivals, and in our apartment complex there is an annual leaf photography competition. Yesterday the grocery store flyer that came in the mail had 43 pumpkin products listed. These included pumpkin macaroons, pumpkin croissants, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin pie popcorn, and of course pumpkin spiced coffee and tea. Some people actually now refer to Fall as “Pumpkin Season,” such is the plethora of pumpkin flavored goods. It makes me wish I liked coffee, as for many New Englanders Fall does not begin until you have had a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
For our first fall activity we chose apple picking, and so drove to New Hampshire with some friends of ours to a fantastic orchard. Last weekend the weather was beautiful, we could not have had a more perfect apple day. The sun shone all day, so much so that it actually made me regret my decision to combine apple picking and sweater wearing. The drive along I-95 to NH is beautiful this time of year. We are just on the cusp of Fall and thus the drive is punctuated by sudden bursts of red and gold, exploding like fireworks among the sea of green trees.
After about an hour we arrived at our chosen orchard, close to Portsmouth, NH, and found that most of New England had had the same idea. The orchard was absolutely packed. Children ran around with apples painted on their cheeks, others struggled under the weight of a freshly picked pumpkin, some raced towards the hay bales and bouncy castle, while a few cautiously approached the lamas and goats in the petting zoo with handfuls of food. We headed to the bakery section and bought some apple cider donuts, essential fuel for picking. Nothing beats the taste of these slightly spiced cake-like donuts on a beautiful Fall day.
At the orchard you purchase a bag to fill with apples and then head over to the Pick Your Own fields. We chose the one-peck bags, which we were told could hold 10 pounds of apples. I knew I could do better. Being a bit of a bargain queen, I am very adept at getting the most amount of product into a set price box or bag. You should see me at Disneyworld with Mr Potato Head parts, I am a demon. You just have to think logically, in a Tetris-like manner and make sure that every single space is filled. Our peck bag thus contained closer to 15 pounds of apples. A further few pounds surreptitiously found their way into my handbag. I know, I know, it is technically theft, but I prefer to see it as a community-sharing program. There are many young children at the orchards that get nowhere near to filling up their bags before they get bored, so I just take their overage.
The orchard was delightful; we picked five different types of apple in a range of sizes and colors ready for a vast assortment of apple baking. We crunched our way through a couple of apples each as we wandered around the rows of fruit-laden trees. I am always surprised that a tree that looks so short and flimsy can support so many apples. One of our friends is also a coupon queen and like me commits to tasks seriously. She therefore had read up about apple picking in the Martha Stewart magazine, and thus knew that you had to twist instead of pull to get the apples down. Her handbag was considerably lighter than mine but she did say she was in awe of my stealth-like ability.
With picking complete we wandered back to the car and deposited our haul. Stopping, of course, for the obligatory pumpkin patch photos, and to pose with some of the face-in-a-hole boards. They are like the ones you would find at an English seaside, except pumpkin and apple-themed, naturally. My gallant boyfriend agreed to pose with very minimal complaint; he is so very accommodating of my scrapbooking ways.
Once loaded in to the car we headed to our favorite diner for lunch, listening to the apples hurtling around in the trunk as we drove. After a feast including turkey dinner, chicken pot pie, meatloaf, fried pickles, and milkshake we got back in the car. The boys chatted all the way home, and the girls on the backseat were asleep within ten minutes. What a way to begin Fall! I doubt the Dowager Countess would approve, but days like these are the very best of American life. Watching the sun dance on rows of golden trees, you understand why they call it God’s country. The apple orchards of New England are my “City Upon a Hill.”