"Mama! It’s an enchanted garden!"
My three year old hasn’t been around many fruit trees before moving to the Fruit Belt, so when we rolled up to Nye’s U-Pick, her thoughts were with her favorite Daniel Tiger story.
From Clementine’s perspective, this was absolutely an enchanted garden. Wind rustled through the trees, jostling branches and showing off heavy bunches of ripe fruit. A thick layer of fallen apples made wreaths around the bases, filling the air with the smell of apple. The trees’ branches reached out into the rows high and low, offering plenty below three feet. The height made it easy for her to reach out and feel the weight of the red, yellow, gold and green fruit.
She figured out how to snag one pretty quickly! Once Clementine discovered the apples at her height were indeed removable, our basket was filled quickly. Clementine was on a hunt to find the “tiny apples that were not sour with leaves picked off”. For a three year old, she has a refined palate and a definitive set of requests for her apples…
Google told me there are 7,500 varieties of apples are grown throughout the world (thanks, University of Illinois’ Department of Agriculture website!). In our afternoon at Nye’s, we filled up our basket with Macs, Jonagolds, Honeycrisps, and Red Delicious. We were able to find tiny ones of each, and they were deemed “not sour” (?!) by Clementine. Nye’s offered many more varieties; we’re going to be ready for a hike next time! There were still rows and rows for us to explore (and plenty more varieties), and we didn’t even get to touch the vineyard with purple grapes climbing the trellis.
October is an incredible month in southwest Michigan. The air was crisp and cool, and the low light warmed the apples and vineyards just enough to perfume the air. Before moving to the Fruit Belt, I hadn’t yet smelled a vineyard ready for harvest. It’s incredible to experience; the sweet scent from the juice hits you before the vineyard comes into sight. The smell is not one I initially associated with fall, but after my October here, I think I will!
Since Saturday, we’ve eaten about halfway through our almost 20 pounds of apples. Turns out, it’s easy to get a preschooler to snack on something they picked themselves! We’re looking forward to returning for more apples, ripe grapes, and the chance to step back and explore Michigan’s Great Southwest.
You can visit Nye’s Apple Barn at 3151 Niles Rd in Saint Joseph, Michigan for fresh fruits and veggies, apple cider, jams, jellies, local honey and maple syrup, and more (like Amish pies!). They are open from 9:00-6:00 Monday-Friday through the end of October from 9:00am-6:00pm. Their U-Pick field is a little further on; call them at (269) 429-0596 for times and availability. You can visit them on Facebook or at their website!