an escape from Phoenix weather
In Minnesota I interact with mother nature at her best.
Slowly, from under the umbrella of autumn foliage, I can see the yellow school bus coming up the short hill on Livingston Avenue. In the crisp late afternoon, a few children step off through the folding doors. I bury my hands in my pockets like bears into a cozy winter den. My light weight Phoenix clothing shows that I’ m not from Minnesota, and I have obviously misjudged how cold fall can be.
My grandchildren are riding bikes along King Street. The leaves crunch beneath my feet as a few more leaflets feather-float from the various trees along our play-path. The 54 degree temperature nips at my face and causes my nose to moisten. However, having the opportunity to travel over 1,200 miles to leaf-peep and gran-watch warms my soul more than a pumpkin spice latte.
Even though Phoenix’s landscape has a lovely aesthetic palette, September triggers a yearning for the deciduous seasonal changes. Moreover, long distance grandparenting brings an aching to travel for simple enjoyment, and October is a favored month for my family of three to visit the city of 52 native trees.
My family thought that we had chosen the warmest day of the week to go apple picking at Aamondt’s Apple Farm, but as our eight passenger SUV set out on the late morning central eastern country drive, the overcast sky and the frigid 34 degree air told us differently.
From the luxury of the warm SUV, the scenery was splendid. The maple, pine, oak and elm trees captivated our eyes. Rosewood, chestnut, maroon, plum, wine and mahogany stood out from the fading green, orange and yellow spectrum. Branches and twigs mixed into the ground covered smooth, toothed and lobed leaves.
“When are we going to be there?” said four-year-old Nyla from her window seat.
I suppose experiencing nature’s grandest coloration is commonplace to the Spika family whom we are visiting. In contrast, though, for my husband and me, the fractal patterns are a beautiful display.
Apple trees are not huge in stature. They are rather like viewing an orange orchard with rows and rows of purposefully spaced fruited trees.
The three children piled out of the SUV to quickly race to the play area. “Tag! You’re it?” said the 7-year-old Malek to his 12-year-old uncle Lon.
The farm animals quickly became a favored interest, especially the kids loved hand feeding them.
I adjusted the wooly scarf around my neck as I watched kids move from the hay-bale maze to the goat pen. The open space was tremendous for running and exploring.
The two 1880s barns, bakery store, granary and winery sat in behind a family house. In 1948 Thor and Lucille Aamodt turned an empty 60-acre field in Stillwater into a thriving commitment to keep tree farming a vital part of the social fabric of Minnesota. Sixty-four years later, Christopher Aamodt, Thor’s grandson, helps his father Chris Aamodt work the orchard.
“I love being outside, I love the family atmosphere and I love giving tours to children so that they can experience the wholesomeness of traditional living,” Thor’s grandson said.
Inside the store we purchased a picking bag and set out to find the keepsake section. The Minnesota Honeycrisp, Honey Gold, Haralson, Regent and Fireside had already seen the end of the growing season and now rested in big bins. The latest-seasoned apple isn’t much to look at. It is small and dullish hued in red and green. I felt disappointed until I bit into one. This little palm- sized apple was fabulously sweet and firmly textured! It’ s the farm owner’s favorite because of its taste and longevity.
In no time we had the 10-pound bag filled from one tree. The walk back to the store was delicious and challenging. It’s hard to hold a full, open-bag of apples while munching one.
The sweet smell of cooking lured all of us into the bakery to enjoy apple brats and apple donuts, and we lingered over hot apple cider.