When you live in suburban Phoenix, where the two seasons of the year are “Pleasant” and “Brutal,” you kind have to seize the rites and rituals of seasonal change where you can get them. So it is with the coming of fall. Every year when September hits, I have fantasies of what a traditional Americana autumn would be like: maple trees aflame in rust and ochre, a chill in the air, and a visit to an orchard for apple picking. In reality, the radiant-leaved trees and nippy weather are not in the forecast where I live, but it turns out that apple picking is actually in the realm of possibility.
Recently, as I was browsing the internet looking for where to buy local meat, I came across Date Creek Ranch, a family farm in Wickenburg, about two hours northwest of Phoenix. The site advertised not only grass-fed beef and organic chicken for sale, but also…did mine eyes deceive me?….APPLE PICKING!
It’s not a mirage! Like the sign says, there really is an orchard in the middle of the desert! Date Creek Ranch was opening its doors–or, rather, its winding dirt road–to the public Labor Day Weekend to pick organic apples from a 45-year-old orchard for $1.29/pound. I decided that since it was my birthday weekend and the whole in-home-yoga-party-with-friends thing I had planned didn’t pan out (long story), that apple picking would be the perfect way to celebrate. And indeed it was. Our family made the trek to Wickenburg on Saturday and enjoyed a wonderful day on the ranch picking apples to our hearts’ content.
When we arrived, we were surprised to find a bustling business. Vehicles packed the parking lot and lined the dirt road leading up to the ranch. Upon entering the farm, we saw a little pavilion selling cold pressed apple cider, lemonade, apple butter, and apple pies:
as well as the previously advertised grass-fed beef. (See their website for pricing!)
Since we suburbanites are not veteran apple pickers, it was especially nice that the ranch provided everything we needed to pick and carry our load, from a wheelbarrow:
to apple pickers (which incidentally look a lot like lacrosse sticks–am I the only one that thinks this?):
to bags for carrying. And even though there was a surprising amount of people there, the orchard still had plenty of apples to choose from, ranging from itty bitty baby-sized ones to big, hearty ones.
Here’s a look down one long row of trees in the orchard:
And our apple loot, when all was said and done:
Near the entrance to the ranch was a weighing station, complete with quaint old-fashioned scale.
An unexpected perk of hanging out on the ranch was spending a little time with the livestock. I’m not a big animal person, so all I could think as we watched these healthy-looking pigs was, I bet they’re delicious.
(No, I did not have the same thought about the horse. That would be culturally inappropriate.)
They also had a picturesque old barn where I’m sure hipsters would love to take photos looking wistful.
So….I can finally say I have realized my fantasy of going apple picking. Now I can get started on apple oatmeal, apple muffins, apple tarts–and I already made applesauce, which we polished off in 24 hours. Also, I found out we weren’t the only ones who felt so enthusiastic about it–according to their website, the ranch sold out of apples in just two days! Without a doubt, our family will be back to Date Creek Ranch next year to do it again. If you live in Arizona, I highly recommend you do the same!