On our birthdays my wife and try to find some new place to experience or untested activity to try. We’ve visited rural town squares, we’ve checked out local tourist attractions, we’ve done day trips to outer Indiana, and one time we even attended a film-festival screening, complete with famous-actors Q&A afterward . Last May for my birthday, I had us on a walking tour of the town of Muncie. This year my wife wanted to keep her own birthday outing simple yet nonetheless original. For once we took advantage of her autumn birthday and went somewhere fairly alien to us: an orchard.
Indiana has its unfair share of copious farmlands in general and orchards in particular. Every October and November the local media like to trumpet dozens of opportunities for Hoosiers to leave the house for fresh air and edible scenery. The busyness of life tends to block those from catching our attention. In the interest of broadening our horizons, or at least in the interest of observing the little things nearer to us than to the horizon’s edge, a few weeks ago we drove out to Danville and attended the annual Heartland Apple Festival at Beasley’s Orchard. ‘Twas the season.
We knew we wouldn’t be there all day, but there were quite a few activities at our disposal. After a quick jaunt through their store for initial appraisals, we conquered Hay Mountain, a fun, dirty, scratchy playground for climbers of all ages who like to show the world they can overcome the tallest obstacles despite the challenges imposed by their cute, tiny legs. But the valiant struggle is worth the ego boost even if you stop one level down from the peak for some reason that was never explained to me.
Kids who hate storming natural landmarks or spending time on farms had a bright alternative: lots and lots of bouncy houses! We didn’t venture inside those boundaries to verify whether or not there was a ball pit.
Part One of this MCC photo series showcased ill-boding images from our march through their corn maze. A few signs before the entrance prepared would-be maze runners with some common-sense practical advice.
All customers received a sheet of trivia questions, which came in a wide variety of subjects, whose answers would guide us toward the correct turns to take at each of ten numbered signposts spread throughout the maze. This sounds helpful until you enter the maze and, several days later, realize the signposts are miles part from each other and it’ll take you ten or fifteen random turns to reach any one of them. We only ran across nine of the ten posts, so either we took one extended shortcut or someone took post #5 home as a souvenir.
I thought this would be a five-minute walk, like a carnival fun house or a fashion mall. We spent fifty long minutes navigating the maze, and not all of those were shiny happy minutes. We reached the first three posts in due course, but somewhere around post #4 I could feel control and confidence slipping. Somewhere around #7 we found ourselves walking in circles past the same corn patterns again and again like a cheap old Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Occasionally we would encounter other lost souls who would travel with us for short times until they realized we didn’t bring a corn-maze walkthrough guide with us.
This is what selfies look like when you’re focused, bitter, and contemplating whether or not your situation can be solved with fire.
Eventually it ended. And it wasn’t the full extent of our day. I got to take my first hayride, but I felt that movies and TV had once again lied to me. I expected to take a flying leap into a truck containing a heaping haystack without getting bruised, and then my wife and I could have one of those nice romantic moments of gazing into each other’s eyes, and then one or both of us would rock back and forth while singing “ROLL, ROLL, ROLL IN ZE HAY!” like Teri Garr in Young Frankenstein. But no, our hay chariot was a tractor pulling a sensible flatbed trailer with a light coating of just enough hay to qualify it as a “hayride” and not a “flatbedride”. It was level and safe and accommodated multiple passengers besides just the two of us. Rats.
The hayride circumnavigated acres upon acres of orchard space. In previous entries we showed you the sincere pumpkin patch and the rows of apple trees. A forest surrounded the property and played up the whole autumn theme they had going.
On the grounds was a tent that we were told was an “arts and crafts fair”. 90% of the vendors were Direct Sales consultants for companies like Tastefully Simple, Pampered Chef, Scentsy, and the like. I saw a couple of handmade handicrafts brimming with “arts and crafts” authenticity, but they were outnumbered. The last couple of small-town festivals we attended were much like this, too. If the attendees are used to this and give it a thumbs-up, then more power to ’em, I guess.
Our grand finale: a return to the shop for genuine farm products. Various fruits and veggies vied for attention, as well as all manner of jarred products — soups, jellies, jams, preserves, hot sauces, barbecue sauces, and other condiments. Some of them contained fruits I’ve never heard of, never even seen on Chopped. Prices were higher than what Walmart would charge, but Walmart wouldn’t offer these kind of specialties, and also they would still be Walmart.
I picked up two items: (1) a jar of their Hot & Sharp German Mustard, which isn’t as spicy as it sounds and goes wondrously with sausage; and (2) a jar of boysenberry jam, which was my first experience with boysenberry and it made my tongue sad at first. Then I tried mixing it with mascarpone (just like a real Chopped contestant would do) and used it as a breakfast sandwich topping. Now it’s great.
And that’s the birthday outing that was. We’ve no idea where next year’s birthdays will take us. Too bad we couldn’t just invite all the small towns and festivals in Indiana to send us their best tourism pitches. But we’ll see where the roads and our whims take us. Hopefully there’s more good food along the way.