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October 8, 2009

Oak Glen Apple Picking

I spent the day yesterday in Oak Glen, Ca, a small community just outside of Yucaipa that's filled with apple orchards. It's such a change of pace only a short drive from L.A., that I thought I'd share my new find.

Putting the best first in this post, here are my new favorite squirrel mascots for "Within My Means"! I've never seen squirrels colored like this--grey bodies, tails, and faces, with a snow white underbelly. The ones in my backyard (as you've seen in my blog photos) are completely brown, and that's also what I remember growing up in the midwest. This little fella was busy chomping on the roof of a store when we arrived, and didn't seem to mind my presence, but had other places to explore.

Here's a brochure put out by the local Apple Growers Association. You can click on each image to enlarge if you're having trouble reading the text. The town has much to offer--just scratching the surface are gift shops, gourmet groceries, pick your own orchards, farmers market stands, and good home cooking in small cafes.

We started out at the Oak Tree Village, a little strip of shops with a wide spectrum of family activities. There's a large area of shops that are sized like sheds, built to resemble an old western town. We were exploring on a weekday, and many of the smaller craft shops are only open weekends, so that was a bit disappointing. But we had so much fun checking out all the cutesy home and gift items in the shops!

The morning was cool and misty, leaving us exquisitely aware we were not in Los Angeles. The climate lends itself to oaks, giving the scenery a feel of New England.

The Law Family is one of the oldest apple growers in the valley. They own several of the businesses on the strip, and our vendor told us that the original Mr. Law was responsible for importing the Gala variety into the U.S.

A handy ranch helper.

One area I had no experience with is mass of an apple bushel: 1/4 Peck is approx. 2 1/2-3 lb. or 8-9 medium apples.

At another farm stand, there were sunflower seeds as natural as they come--in the flower! Check out how huge these are....

I walked away with a couple good-sized acorn squash, a gallon of cider, a bag of Golden Delicious, and a new-to-me kind called Mutsu. I was dying for some apple-pumpkin butter and maple candy too, not to mention apple pie and candy apples.

We stopped for a down-home breakfast at the local cafe. This is a family-owned shop run by one of the Law daughters. I loved the few antiques that were decorating the entry. There's an impressive apple peeler-corer machine running in their kitchen. This is the place for apple bread--only $2 a loaf!

At the Country Orchard, I found a bunch of books to add to my PaperBack Swap Wishlist! I took some photos so I could remember the titles and authors: "Pumpkin: A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year" by DeeDee Stovel, "The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest" by Carol Costenbader, "Homegrown Whole Grains" by Sara Pitzer, "Herbal Vinegar" by Maggie Oster, "Pickles & Relishes" by Andrea Chesman, "Saving Seeds" by Marc Rogers, "Keeping the Harvest" by Nancy Chioffi & Gretchen Mead, "Carrots Love Tomatoes" by Louise Riotte, "Making & Using Dried Foods" by Phyllis Hobson, "The Tomato Festival Cookbook" by Lawrence Davis-Hollander, "Cider" by Annie Proulx & Lew Nichols.

And finally, a bit of creative stained glass inspiration that was hanging at the Country Orchards.

Have you ever been out to Oak Glen? Do you make it a part of your fall rituals? If you plan to go after reading this post, please leave a comment on the blog to let me know!

1 comment:

  1. From Sheila Dodd, by email:

    Ellen - this looks like fun. We are having our local fall festivals around here too. One of the favorites is the covered bridge festival in Rockville Indiana (about an hour from my house). Sometime if you visit Illinois in the fall, we can go. You would enjoy the drive, seeing all the old bridges (kind of like Bridges of Madison County), and having lunch.


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