The orchard looks different somehow…

A few weeks ago, , and I went on our annual trip to the apple orchard. Only, well, you see, we didn’t exactly go to an orchard. If you know the whole long history of our orchard trips (check out the “orchard” tag if you want the details), you’ll remember that we went to Sponsel’s for ten years, until it closed. Last year we tried a new orchard, which was nice, but wasn’t enough to get us to come back this year. Add in this year’s weather patterns that meant the apple crop was early, and some crazy September schedules, and, well, things changed. It was mid-October before we all had a free weekend at the same time. took on the task of planning things, and came up with several options. I wanted to do a corn maze, because I’d never done one before.

Well, we ended up at Sever’s Corn Maze just south of the cities. Barely any apples in sight (though they did have apple cider, and I had an apple with hot caramel as my lunch), but lots of other fun things.

Honest to goodness, there was a camel. That wasn’t even the most exotic of animals.

That’s right, there was an exotic animal petting zoo. This resulted in sticking her hands into most of the cages while got upset about the map of the maze being eaten. It was all in good fun.

I don’t remember what these are called, but they were cute. In an Australia sort of way.

Thankfully, not all the animals were exotic.

You know I needed a picture of a rooster.



We did complete the maze and found all of the clues to spell the secret word. It was more fun than we thought it would be. Maybe next year there will be more apples on our orchard trip, but for this year, we had a good time.

Random stuff from the last week or so

I’ll try to get back on the blogging wagon. I don’t know what’s been up lately, but I have not been interested in much of anything other than painting my nails. (Mothers everywhere should be pleased – I have had my nails perfectly painted every day for the past two weeks, maybe three. The moment it chips, I take it off and put on a new color. It’s a bit of an obsession, partially spurred by the fact that my nails are currently long and healthy, and partially by the nail stamping kit I bought, which is super cool.) Maybe it’s the change of seasons – I am really not looking forward to winter. Anyway.

Last weekend, , and I went on our annual apple orchard visit. did a great job of finding us a new orchard and planning the trip. We went to MacDougall’s in Hastings, which is not nearly as far away as I thought it might be. I didn’t take too many pictures this year (though has some on her blog).

Obligatory apple shot.
Sleeping bunnies. They had bunnies! And I totally didn't steal one to bring home with me, even though I wanted to. (Seriously, why can't I live somewhere warm enough to own a bunny or 12?)

It was super hot this year. Like, sweaty hot. Blech. This was unusual, especially since some of our October visits have required mega winter gear (sometimes we try to get ahead of that and go in September, but our calendars didn’t mesh up this year). There were also tons of little biting bugs that looooved me. I thought I was going crazy, but once I got home and the bites developed, I knew I hadn’t been hallucinating. I had over 2 dozen bites on my neck, chest and arms. They itched like crazy, and didn’t stop itching until Wednesday. I was not a happy camper.

Anyway, the orchard was a bit smaller (no tractor ride to the apples), and we filled up our bags fairly quickly, so we drove to downtown Hastings for a late lunch.

There was a working miniature train at the restaurant! How cute is that!

We tried going for a walk and hanging out down on the river (there was a bald eagle, but he/she wouldn’t come close enough for a decent picture), but the biting bugs were back and I couldn’t stand it.

It was a lovely trip, and hopefully next year it won’t be so hot (and maybe all the little bugs will have died from colder weather).

With volunteering, a change in ‘s workout schedule (no more training for the 10K, lots more kickboxing), the fall semester firmly under way, and the rapidly decreasing daylight hours, our weekdays are not what they used to be. We pretty much only have Friday night to do yard work together, and who wants to do yard work on a Friday night? That means the weekends require more labor than anyone should have to do. It will be over soon, and then I will be sad because there will be snow on the ground and it will be cold (I may have heard that there will be snow flurries this week, and I hope I’m mistaken).

We have managed to finally finish up the gutter project (not just cleaning, but there were some repairs needed, including replacing a down spout that dumped water onto our neighbor’s driveway) this weekend. We’ll probably have to check for leaves again once they all fall off our trees, but that’s minor compared to all the work we’ve done.

We also have the trench completely filled in. The majority of this work was done by , which included having to sift through a ton of rocks and dirt to get the dirt out. He also dug up the bushes that I’d cut down, and has started prepping that area for his hot pepper garden next year. The gigantic pile (OK, it’s like 2 cubic yards, so not really all that big) of rocks in our driveway is [hopefully] going away soon – thank goodness for Craigslist!

We’ve begun to plan out what we’ll have to do next Spring, and it involves renting some serious equipment. Did you know that there’s such a thing as a rock vac? The heavens will open up and angels will sing when the rocks finally disappear from our house.

(I wasn’t going to share pictures of the progress on our irrigation project until it was all over, but I couldn’t help myself. I had to show them to co-workers last week, after they were raving about how awesome I was. I had to prove that not everything is currently in a state of awesomeness. Thankfully, this is our backyard, and fully fenced in, and we’re the only ones to witness this… situation. Full photo documentation is on Flickr.)

Here is the sad state of the backyard right now. You can kind of see on the left the stumps of bushes that are now dug up for Prince Charming's hot pepper garden. On the right, you can see the sprinkler head for one of my veggie gardens. I finally got that bush trimmed this weekend, so it's no longer hanging over the "grass." We decided we're just going to have to till up this whole area next year, which is fine, since we were basically re-doing the boundaries on everything anyway.
This area will have more grass than it originally did. And I think those daylilies are all going to bite it. They are not endearing. You can kind of see our new water spigot there at the corner of the house. It's pretty cool. (It was part of the irrigation project.)

We’ve almost picked out the new edging bricks (well, we agree on shape and color), and have drawn out new borders. Saturday morning we had a guy come and give us an estimate on getting our trees trimmed. Good news? We have excellent, expensive [valuable] trees. Bad news? They’ve never been trimmed. Still haven’t gotten the written estimate yet, but it probably won’t be pretty. More good news? It will be fairly cheap to remove a really ugly evergreen that’s on the corner of our property, and we are super happy about that. I don’t have any pictures of it, because it’s that ugly, and seriously on the edge of our property (as in, it might actually be on the property line, and we need to ask our neighbors about that before removing it), but you can trust me that it’s a good thing it’ll go.

This weekend while was sifting out rocks and dirt to fill in the trenches and add to his hot pepper garden, I cleaned up that front garden we have (I only have one picture of it, from when we first moved in – we put in a bunch of ground cover, which got really out of control this year) and ripped a bunch of stuff up. I officially decided that it’s going to become lawn next year. That bush will have to go (oh, how sad – not really, since, as you may well know, I have waged a war on the large number of bushes that came with this house, and most of them are going to die sooner or later, because I think bushes are just terrible), and there are a few plants to transplant, but everything else was awful. My very first foray into decorative gardening failed, and I’m not at all sad about that. It will be lovely in grass, I promise. (It made a lot more sense, visually, for that garden to be there before the previous owner installed the fence, which cut through the garden that wrapped around the garage and up to the driveway. Now that the fence is there, it seems silly. And it’s full shade, which is a disaster. And right underneath a large oak tree that drops tons of leaves and other stuff. Just too much work for not enough reward.)

We also finally put covers on our window wells. We’d bought the plastic covers last fall, but since we couldn’t find ones exactly the right size, had to do some finagling to make them work. Two words: zip ties. Seriously. As long as they keep the leaves and snow out, that’s all we need. Also, the guy who gave us an estimate on painting our house noticed that some of the biggest chips are right above the window wells. Maybe this will help that problem? (Maybe properly prepping before painting will fix that problem. The last guy did some great things, but a decent exterior paint job was not one of them.)

I wore sweat pants all day yesterday, and that was awesome. In my defense, I spent 2 hours at the spa, and sweats seemed appropriately comfortable for that. And for the yard work, and cleaning up a bit in my office, and general laziness. I really should have done some sewing, but couldn’t bring myself to turn on my machine. However, I have a whole mess of projects prepared (cut out, that is), including quite a few knits, which are generally fast projects, so when my mojo comes back, I should be productive. I think part of my lack of desire to sew comes from knowing that what I really need to do is work on ‘s quilt, but I’ve hit a bit of a snag there. The fabric we picked out for the border? They’re out of it at my JoAnn’s (well, they have about 1 yard, and I need 5-ish), and so I have to drive down to Apple Valley to see if they have some. I don’t know what I’ll do if they don’t. But it’s getting cold, and I don’t want to be cold at night, so I should probably get on that.

Now, see, this is what happens when I don’t blog for a while. You get paragraphs and paragraphs of boringness. My apologies.

I almost forgot to mention that I canned for the first time last weekend, and it all went well! All of the lids sealed just like they were supposed to! It was actually pretty awesome! I did 5 mini jars of pickled jalapenos, and 1 large jar of hot peppers packed in oil. I used the recipes I linked to here. Next up? Doing something with those apples from last weekend. They’re calling out to me. But first, I’m going to hang out with tonight, and maybe fancy up my nails when I get home.

Saying Goodbye

This weekend, we had to say goodbye to Sponsel’s. They have been the location for our annual orchard visit for eight years now, and this fall they are closing. Sold to land developers.

The weather was perfect! No color adjustments were made to this picture!

Lots of pictures were taken, though we generally avoided taking pictures of the depressing parts. (They have sold off a lot of their property, and the bakery/food area was entirely closed, and they no longer do wagon trips out to the orchard or horseback riding, no pumpkins, I could go on.)

We even took pictures of taking pictures!

There was no oversight by staff out in the orchard, so we didn’t have to covertly climb trees or sample the apples. That was nice. Also, usually there are only 3-4 kinds of apples to pick on any given weekend, but now they were all up for grabs (mostly). There was a lot of tasting, trying to decide what we liked, what we didn’t like, what wasn’t ripe yet…. We came home with Harrelsons, Red Barons, and Honey Golds.

Eat up!

As always, plenty of opportunities for practicing my photography. It was so bright out that I couldn’t see the screen, so I took a lot of duplicates, hoping at least one of them was in focus.


Feeling a bit melancholy about the whole thing, I pulled together some of my favorite photographs from previous years (click to go to Flickr and see them a bit bigger).

Sponsel's 2003-2009
Sponsel's 2003-2009

I could tell so many stories… the year we learned that Emma Krumbee’s is not all it’s cracked up to be. The year we learned that late October is too cold for apple picking. Feeding the goats. Climbing trees. Generally being silly. We have 11 months to find a replacement, which is going to be hard! We want all of the good stuff without finding a place that is too kid-friendly, if you know what I mean. We’ll have to see what happens….

Just for You

I’d pretend that I’m playing along with Wordless Wednesday, but really, I’m just being lazy.

A making a silly face
Guess whose hand is on whose butt

New profile pic, L?
This girl just can't stop herself from climbing trees!

Sponsel's 2009

I think someone needs to change their Facebook profile image. (And it’s not me, because… there isn’t a single picture of me from Sunday, and that’s a really good thing. It was a very bad hair day.)

Did I say I’d post this yesterday? Oops.

And I don’t have that much time today either, because I’ve got a project to work on and a meeting with someone, but I did say I’d put pictures up from the orchard, so here’s what I’ve got from the weekend (the rest are in my Flickr Photostream)….

Green apples
Red apple
Lots of apples
A’s feet
L’s feet
Also, I sent some fabric out to California for the BTRS Swap.
Matea proved that Korben isn’t the only one who likes to sleep on my stuff.
And, while taking pictures of our house (most of which turned out horribly due to bad lighting and my failure to look at them on the computer until a day later – oops), I took this one of our new blinds, because I like them very much (which is good, because they were a tad pricey and took a lot of time to install and custom-fit).

My Weekend (in short)

I don’t have tons of time today to blog, but I thought I’d put up a little bit about my weekend. Friday Prince Charming  and I went to the Minnesota Orchestra. I was a bit afraid I’d find it boring, but it was really good. It was especially fun to find those musicians who really enjoyed what they were doing. The guest violinist was one of those people, but there were some others as well, where it was fabulous to watch their facial expressions and movements. Time to go for violin lessons, I believe.

Saturday, Amanda and Liz and I went to Sponsels for our annual apple orchard trip. I’m still working on the photo page, and I’ll post the link there later. Here’s my two favorite pictures from the day:

Shiny red apple

I’ll try to post the stories of the day along with the pictures by the end of today (no promises, though, with the “big meeting” this afternoon where we find out who’s positions are being eliminated – no worries, theoretically, since all those who are affected have already been told).

Sunday, after sleeping in (I was soooooo tired), cleaning around the house, and a wonderful turkey & Havarti sandwich inspired by my time in San Francisco and trips to the Sourdough Bread Company aka Boudin (a great restaurant if you’re ever there), Prince Charming picked me up and we drove to charming Mendota, population 197, and visited a historical marker there that referenced Minnesota’s first governor.

Historical marker
Path in the woods

We also took a nice long walk through part of Fort Snelling State Park (located quite inconveniently underneath the ascent-path of the airport), attempted to skip rocks, and generally enjoyed nature. Here’s my favorite picture from the day (OK, my only picture, and it didn’t turn out nearly as nicely as it looked in my experience of it):


There were times when the breeze would hit the river just right and the smell would hit me, and I still can’t place exactly where I know that from, but I know it was familiar and important somehow. Our sense of smell is linked closely with memory, but that doesn’t mean my memory functions all that well. Then there was a delightful trip to Cold Stone, and if you count that as a meal, I had three of them yesterday, which I think you should, since it has clearly enough calories to be a meal and contained three of the four food groups (no meat products). There was some fabulous music playing in the store, and the combination of things made me quite happy.

I also had a lovely trip to Target later that night that involved purchasing some large Rubbermaid containers and then taking them home with me on the bus. Always an adventure. But hopefully the camping stuff can get taken care of and stored away neatly soon.

This morning started out quite poorly, truthfully. The key statement being made by my roommate Melissa when she commented on how she was running late. Of course, her running late meant that I got in the shower about an hour after I should have and ten minutes before I should have been on the bus. Needless to say, I was later to work than preferable (though my boss isn’t coming in until 1pm, so that made it a little better). Then the bus was about 6 minutes late, and the driver thought that in the umpteen-blocks into downtown St Paul he could make up those 6 minutes by hurtling as fast as possible down the street and stopping quite abruptly. At one point I feared for the senior citizen standing in the aisle waiting for his stop. The bus: also always an adventure.

I really must go and do some work. Or get coffee. Something, at least.

Pictures (long overdue!)

I finally got my film back from the lab – apparently it contained all fall and Christmas, including a trip to the Orchard, the Fall Senior High Retreat, Christmas, and the Snow Senior High Retreat. Hmmmm…. Digital camera should fix that problem, but…. you never know.

So, here are the pictures for our trip to the orchard (me, Amanda, and Liz):


[Link to album removed]