Even before we came home from Montana, the wheels in my brain were turning. In Montana, our family spent time together. I wasn’t on my smart phone (as much). The kids barely watched t.v. And when we had a down moment from hiking or exploring the mountains, we were talking to each other. Being out in the woods with an iffy cell phone signal helped a lot. I couldn’t take calls. Neither could Matt. And what that meant for our family was that we were forced to give each other our undivided attention. Surprisingly, that didn’t make anyone nuts (even me–and I’m known for my habit of checking texts and Facebook on my phone). We enjoyed each other.
So during our last our in Montana, we stopped at a few shops to grab gifts for family and friends. In one store, I found a book that was devoted to how kids (and families) can spend time outdoors. Written by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, it is called The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up . Fortunately, Matt and I haven’t really grown up yet, so this book is as much up our alley as it is our kids’.
On the airplane ride home, Levi and I paged through the book circling those activities that we wanted to try. From the chapter on autumn, we decided we’d go pick a pumpkin off the vine, find different fall leaves and cocoons, go owling (or nighttime walking in search of owls), pick berries and apples and try to make something from them, make twig art, plant something, make bird feeders, create a fall flower display, go hiking, conquer a corn maze, bob for apples, make trail mix, watch the sun set, go on a full moon hike, make nature candles, jump in leaf piles, whistle on grass, paddle a canoe, visit the mountains (on the east coast), harvest and roast pumpkin seeds, take photos (duh), hug a tree, play ultimate frisbee, and hold a pumpking carving party. Phew! I know.
It sounds like a lot. But here’s my thinking. Living in my suburban bubble with takeout and gourmet food just 5-20 minutes away and lots of stuff filling up my house, I sometimes have little reason to go outside. Our day to day lives keep us very busy and I have to admit that is a special occasion that I stop to smell the roses.
Another thing. Our neighborhood doesn’t have very many trees that kids can climb. It’s brand spanking new with shiny houses and pretty rows of little little trees. Which means that when our kids do play outside they are doing things like riding bikes, jetting around on scooters (sometimes even the motorized variety), and climbing metal light poles. Yes, you read that right. One day I had to convince the neighborhood kids that it probably wasn’t a good idea for them to climb an electric, old fashioned looking light pole.
My theory is that our suburban bubble without lots of trees and all that trees mean for our world is that we find ourselves living in a world that can deplete us. It is good to get outside and walk on trails in the woods. That’s what Montana got me thinking.
And being that I am a scheduley type of mama, I decided to “book” nature activities for our family.
First up: apple picking.
To find a nearby place where we could apple and berry picking, I visited Pickyourown.org and found Crooked Orchard Farm in Purcellville, Virginia, which is about 25 minutes from our house.
We loved this place. First off, unlike other farms we’ve visited, this place had minimal parking and the operation consisted of a few tables, a little tent, and one woman with a scale who’d weigh your fruit and check you out. They accepted cash and check.
So we took a little walk to find the orchard.
Once we located the orchard, we had to pick a good row for picking. Matt wanted us to go a bit farther back where he thought fewer people would’ve picked. So we walked a ways back and thought we’d get started. But before we could, we stopped to listen to a family exclaim that snake was climbing a tree. To which Matt said, “You can’t get any more Garden of Eden than this.” We decided to let the snake have this tree and we moved down a couple to pick our apples.
To get the really good apples, we needed to reach high. Fortunately, we had the perfect little guy to stand on shoulders to do just that.
And picking apples sort of lends itself to hiding in the shade, especially when the sun is beating down on the orchards. I think it was about ten degrees cooler inside the trees.
So we stayed inside the trees to find our apples.
I begged the family to sit and pose for a group photo–being that I love to document our adventures.
A few more pics out in the orchard fields because mom is a photographer and can’t help herself from finding neat spots to stop for a photo op.
So now we are thinking we might’ve started a new Monte tradition. Go apple picking and make something from the apples. And then invite friends over (which we did) to eat the yummy treats.
Next up on our outdoorsy adventures is bat watching and bringing our own trail mix for snacks (our snacks, not for the bats. I am terrified of bats and I cannot imagine ever feeding them even if that were something they wanted to do). So yes, I am going to attempt to overcome a huge fear that I have of bats for sake of my family getting to get outdoors.
And I will be sure to tell you all about that next week . . .
Oh, the recipe is from Landolakes!
Apple cobbler may become one of your favorite apple desserts once you try this recipe. Serve this old-fashioned crunchy cobbler warm, with a dollop of ice cream.
Stir together 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle over apples.
Combine remaining cinnamon, flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder and salt in bowl. Beat at medium speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over apples. Pour melted butter over topping. Bake 45-55 minutes or until lightly browned and apples are tender.
Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.