Years ago, Laura met someone on a cruise. The woman was from Maine, so they began chatting about life in the state. During their conversation, the woman mentioned that she had lived here for over 70 years and feels like she hasn’t even made a dent in all there is to do. I thought that was interesting. At the time, I hadn’t done much around the area, so I had no idea if it was true of not. I’m beginning to think it is.
Yesterday was our second and final apple orchard visit for the season. So far, we picked 1/2 bushel at Cayford Orchards, which simply wasn’t enough. We needed more apples. We have trouble letting the season go by without completely stocking up.
For the past few years, we’ve been picking at North Star Orchards in Madison, but I’ve been making a concerted effort to get out there to see new things. While North Star is beautiful and they have wonderful apples, we’ve sort of worn the orchard out. This past week, I told Laura that if I have to take one more photo of what I already took photos of last year, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself. The time was ripe for change.
Sandy River Apple Orchard isn’t the easiest orchard in the state to find. Like many other addresses around here, GPS can’t quite figure things out. I knew this before getting in the car because I’m a Google Earth genius. Where we would have ended up if I hadn’t looked online is anyone’s guess. But, with my navigational expertise, we made it there just fine. And when we arrived, I was a little bit surprised at what we found.
I jumped out of the car and told the man sitting near the boxes of apples that he may have one of the mose beautiful orchards I’ve ever seen. It’s really true. The orchard is totally cozy and is, and I don’t use this word very much, “nestled” on both sides of a very infrequently traveled dirt road. There’s an interesting history to the orchard that dates back to 1852. Apparently, the initial owner of the property was given the land by the U.S. government for his service in the military. Since there wasn’t enough money to pay the soldiers, they were given land. That was a long time ago, but I really enjoy listening to stories like that. To think about these things as we walk around places we visit is incredible, to say the least.
There are all sorts of cool things on the orchard property. One of them is a restored barn and the other is a Quilted Apple Retreat, where folks can take a few days off to visit the orchard and quilt to their heart’s content. I’ve never seen something like this before, but I think it’s a great idea to get away from it all.
The farm has a huge variety of apples to pick or purchase. I want to say they have 40 varieties, but I’m not sure about that. I believe that’s what one of the owners told me. It’s a lot of fun because they’re all mixed in with each other, so you don’t really know where you’ll end up or what you’ll get.
Just walking around the farm with camera in hand is a lot of fun. We picked our apples early on and then strolled around to take photos for a while. It’s not very difficult to bump into many quintessential photo opportunities. The rows of trees, the old bird house, the cat. Yes, I’ll show you that one a bit later on.
As Laura and I made our ways through the trees, we bumped into a special surprise. This surprise is called the Wolf River Apple, which is, by far, the largest type of apple I’ve ever seen in my life. I wasn’t even aware that this type of apple existed, but when I saw them hanging from the branches, my jaw almost his the floor. These photos completely don’t do justice – just take my word for it, they’re huge. I started eating one at the orchard yesterday and I couldn’t finish it. It’s sitting in the refrigerator right now.
We easily filled out bag with this type and others.
After picking for a bit, we walked around some more where I took a heck of a lot more photos. I won’t bore you with all of them, but I will show you one of the classic apple tree. Such a nice day. It was definitely sweater weather at only 50 degrees. This is the time of year everyone I know waits for.
We made our way back to the barn and paid up. We also looked through the different varieties of apples those who don’t like to pick themselves can purchase. Good looking apples with an awesome crunch. By the way, half a bushel of pick-your-own costs $15. Just in case you were wondering.
The first half of our visit was spent on one side of the dirt road. That was where we picked all of our apples. The second half of our visit was spent on the other side of the road, where we did a bit of exploring.
After I paid for the apples, Laura and I spoke to the owner of the orchard for a while. Her name is Carol and she’s an extraordinarily nice person. We chatted about this and that and during our talk, she mentioned that we were welcome to walk down, in between some other apple trees into the woods, where we’ll find a small cabin. I guess it’s a getaway or a fishing cabin or something like that. It’s a stone’s through from the Sandy River, so I’m guessing I’m near accurate. Laura and I took Carol up on her offer and took off with cameras in hand.
This is the kind of place you can walk around during the evening with a glass of red wine in your hand. Now that’s my kind of activity.
We didn’t get very far before I began taking random shots of Americana. There are hidden gems like this all over the place, especially in the leaves during autumn.
This first photo is of an old Radio Flyer wagon. If you were a kid, you may have had one of these. If you were never a kid, you probably didn’t. That was a joke.
This next photo is of an old apple box from Moose Hill Orchards in Derry, New Hampshire.
We didn’t get twenty feet before we realized we were being followed. I turned around to see a giant Maine Coon cat hot on our trail. His name is Felix and he’s a real big boy. I picked him up to introduce myself to him.
I also took a bunch more photos of him, but this was the best one. He has a tendency to walk toward you as you get down on the ground, which makes for some tough photography. He stayed still for this one though.
We spent far too long with this cat. That may have been Laura’s fault.
Of course, as you walk through these types of places, you continuously see different angles of the sun hitting different things. This is the curse of photography – never getting anywhere and spending all your time shooting away. I promise, this is the last apple picture I’ll show in this post.
The tree in the photo above is right at the corner of where the trail begins that goes down the hill to the cabin and river. Here is the trail. Man those leaves were crunchy.
The trail wasn’t too long. We did have to hold hands while walking down the hill though, which became very romantic, if I don’t say so myself.
It wasn’t long before we saw the cabin.
I thought this was just the coolest things in the world. Doesn’t it look like something from a fairy tale?
As we got closer, I took some more photos.
After hanging around outside for a bit, we went in, which we were allowed to do, by the way. I grabbed a few shots of the interior as well. Can you imagine renting or owning this? I’m not sure people understand how inexpensive it really is.
Think about it – no news, no politics, no people, no traffic, no drama, no fighting – just a cat and yourself reading old books together in the woods. It doesn’t get any better than this.
For my final photo, I’ll show you how close this cabin is to the Sandy River. I took this picture while standing on the front porch.
What a day. One of the best ones we’ve had in a while. There’s some good energy coming from that area. I’ve been places where I couldn’t wait to leave and I’ve been places where I’ve never wanted to leave. This is one of the latter. Crazy.
This Year’s Almost Apple Picking Adventure
Yesterday was the day we chose for our yearly apple picking adventure. We’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember, we’ve been late at getting out every single year. Well, perhaps that isn’t exactly true. I can recall times many years ago that we ventured out in September, but the problem with those occasions was that September is oftentimes just as hot as August is. For some odd reason, we seemed to have found the hottest days of the month for our picking. In more recent years, we decided that any time after October 1st is just fine with us. It’s been working out too. The only issue is that many of the better apples are already gone. We manage to get our fair share though.
Last year’s picking was the best. As I wrote in a previous post, we found the most beautiful orchard in the world and it was right in our own backyard in Mercer, Maine. If I had to guess, I’d day the orchard is a good 20 minutes from our house. This orchard, for some strange reason, has the best energy about it. It’s quiet, has a ton of different apple varieties and has a landscape that I could get lost in for hours. It’s stunning. And what’s best of all is that there’s a cat named Felix that lives on the property. Felix just loves to come out to play with those of us who visit to do some picking. Take a look at me falling in love with him just yesterday.
When anyone approaches Felix, he drops to the ground and rolls on his back waiting to be pet. Of course, this is what everyone does. I like to rub his belly and then pick him up for a squeeze. I can remember doing the same exact thing last year. He’s a real highlight at the orchard.
I have a story about yesterday’s picking, but I’d like to start at the beginning of our outing first. Later on in this post, I’ll get to what happened at the orchard.
We decided to take the long way down to Mercer yesterday. There weren’t many people out, so I could drive very slowly like I enjoy doing. When I drive slowly, I see things I don’t usually see. Yesterday, after I pulled off the main road onto the dirt road that leads to the apple place, I passed by a regular looking Maine house. There wasn’t anything all too special about it. As I was peeking in the back yard of this house, I noticed a small cemetery situated along a treeline. I remarked at how interesting it is to have something like this so close to a residence and as I continued driving, I realized that the cemetery was larger than I first thought. I decided to pull over to the side of the road to see what it was all about. Again, we were pretty much alone out there yesterday, so I could have parked in the middle of the road to enjoy a sandwich. Very little pressure when it comes to the driving around here.
The cemetery was beautiful. It had a traditional iron fence that surrounded it and it was in very good shape. I love seeing things like this in the month of October. The weather is usually so good and sometimes, the exploring is even better.
After I took a few pictures, I turned around to notice that I had parked in the parking lot of the Mercer Meeting House.
As I learned yesterday, much of the construction in the area occurred in the 1800s. You wouldn’t know it because so many structures have been re-sided, but many of the original houses and buildings still stand. Don’t get me wrong here, there were never many to begin with. But from what was built, so much is still being lived in and used.
The Meeting House is still in very good shape. I took a few photos of it. I’ll share the best one here.
Sitting all the way over to the left of the building, along the road, was a mill stone with a plaque attached to it.
On this plaque were some words describing an enormous tree that once existed in the town. If you can’t read the words in the photo above, here’s something that’s more clear.
Who knew the largest tree in New England grew in Mercer, Maine? I sure didn’t. I love interesting tidbits of information like this. Of course, I view this claim with skepticism. I have a weird feeling that there are many “largest tree” stories out there. But, without knowing any facts, I’ll give this one to the town of Mercer.
After leaving the Meeting House parking lot, we didn’t get much further than an eighth of a mile before I noticed the most beautiful pond over to our left. There was a sign in front of the pond indicating that the area was, in fact, a bog, which is a wet, muddy area that is too soft for any heavy structure to be situated.
At first, I told myself that this area was particularly beautiful. As I continued to walk down the street though, I realized that the area was actually remarkably beautiful. Take a look at this next photo.
I mean really? How nice does that look? I stood there for a while soaking it all in.
As I walked just a bit further, I saw the coolest grass pathway leading to the rear of a nearby house. I simply love features like this. I have a long history of exploring a variety of properties, and when I can picture myself walking though some grass on an autumn day with a glass of red wine in my hand, I’m a happy camper. Take a look at this path that leads to the area in back of the bog.
I think I like the wooden fence all the way to the left the best.
Across from the path was a dead milkweed pod that was just begging me to photograph it. I love the details in these things.
Okay we’re down to the final photo for this part of the post. As I was walking back to the car, I noticed another mill stone hidden in the high grass, right off the road. Upon closer examination, I noticed that this stone had some writing on it. It said, This wheel was used in the Mercer grist mill to grind grain into flour in the 1800’s.
The road we were walking on was dirt and there was a large ledge right off of it, in back of this stone. As I moved closer to the side of the road, my left foot fell into a hole. I went down all the way to my knee. Apparently, there was some erosion in this area that I didn’t see because I was so focused on getting a picture of the stone. The lesson I learned was that I need to pay closer attention to the environment when I’m in the field taking photos. You know, I’m frequently so enthralled with taking pictures of things that I oftentimes don’t notice the danger that lurks all around me.
Anyway, let’s move onto the apple orchard. That’s where most of the fun happened.
Unfortunately, since we had such a rainy spring this year, the orchard we visited had a tough time with their spraying of the trees. Because of this, there weren’t many apples that were good enough to pick. Sadly, we didn’t fill our bag at all. We left empty handed in that regard. I did, however, take a few bites of an apple during our meandering through the orchard. Also, the owner of the property gave me a red delicious as a gift, which I ate on the ride home. Here’s a picture of me holding the apple I just spoke of.
I also purchased a gallon of freshly pressed apple cider, which I tasted last night and found to be delicious.
We did manage to snap a few photos during our stroll around the property. You know, the usual photos. I was actually kind of nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to get any because I have done such a thorough job of photographing things like this in the past. Sometimes, I feel like I’m writing and sharing the same posts over and over again. Especially when it comes to apple picking. I mean, how many times can I show you photos of apples? I’ll limit this year’s to only a few random shots of the orchard.
The owner of this apple orchard, whose name happens to be Carol, sometimes operates quilting getaways for friends and family. The last time we visited the orchard, I noticed a building that looks sort of like a house, with a sign that read “Quilted Apple Retreat” on its side.
Like I said, I never thought much of the building beyond that fact that it was in very nice condition and that I liked the sign on the side of it. Well, as it turns out, the building is a restored barn and as Carol was talking to us yesterday, she invited us inside for a tour. I was especially glad she did this because, as I mentioned above, I wanted to write a blog post about the day and I didn’t have many photos. I’ll tell you right now, the tour of the barn really helped. It helped a lot. I love the pictures I took of the interior. I’ll show them to you now.
Let me tell you, when we walked into this structure, my jaw almost hit the floor. I wasn’t expecting what I saw. Take a look.
I mean, can you imagine having a place like this? I can’t. I would love it, but I couldn’t imagine ever finding the luck that would allow me to own something so wonderful. Talk about cozy. As we were walking around and as Carol was telling us about the building’s history, I couldn’t help but to imagine relaxing in front of the huge wood stove. This wood stove has a story of its own. It was given to Carol by a group in town that had gotten it from another group. To make a long story short, the stove is considerably old and it has a rich history. It’s also enormous. Check it out.
For some reason, I always picture myself cozying up near a wood stove at night during a snow storm. There’s nothing more peaceful than that idea for me. I love having a wood stove here at the house, but ours is nothing compared to this larger one above. I could get used to something like that.
The building contained so many unique attributes and features. For instance, there was a huge hand-forged chain that Carol’s family found in the back yard during some excavation. The chain was wrapped around a boulder. I guess someone tried to move the boulder, failed and gave up. They simply let the chain sit in the dirt and eventually it was covered by earth. It was found and restored and now it sits upon a beam in the barn.
Here’s a different view. It’s a big chain.
Along the walls are signs from a long time ago. This one that says “Wealthys For Sale – One Mile” is from 1930.
I don’t know the story about these next two, but I thought they were really cool, so I took some photos of them.
Inside this building, there’s a loft, a kitchen and a bedroom upstairs. Here’s the kitchen.
And here’s the bedroom.
I honestly don’t think you can get much more cozy (apparently, I find myself using this word a lot in this post) than this. I instantly fell in love with this place. I really didn’t want to leave.
When I was remodeling the room I’m sitting in right now, I had a great idea. I thought that I would attach cedar shake shingles to the inside of the ceiling. I also wanted to place restored barn wood on the walls. After thinking about this for a while and after adding up how expensive it would be, I talked myself out of the idea. Well, as it turns out, someone else had the same exact idea and actually followed through with it. This next picture makes me want to re-do the room I’m in.
I love the warmth of interior wood. There’s nothing like it.
The last thing I want to show you from the inside of this building is an example of the creative lighting Carol used. I want to copy this idea so bad, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Luckily, there are a lot of folks out there who are now getting into these types of creations, so I might just have to purchase something similar. Perhaps I could hang a few over my puzzle table.
Wow, what a great place. I’m excited to post these pictures to share with you. I also enjoy looking back on them, so this is a win-win.
After our tour was finished up and as we were leaving, I decided to grab some shots of the apple cider press this establishment uses. First, I took a photo of the apple crates.
And finally, for the last photo of this post, I present the apple cider press. I’m starting to think I want one of these. I was watching a few videos last night and learned just how easy making apple cider can be. Believe me when I tell you this, there are apples all over the place up here. All over.
Overall, we had a really great day yesterday. What began as a loss quickly turned into a sheer delight. I loved the adventure and look forward to our next apple picking effort, which might happen in a few days from now.
Thanks for reading!