The past few years I’ve struggled with a growing desire to reconnect more with nature, specifically gardening. I think it comes from a combination of living 200 feet in the sky, increasing awareness of where food comes from, and a desire to save money. Either way, I don’t have much interest in livestock, but I would love a garden of my own to tend to that would provide with me edible payoff. Sadly, that’s just not possible right now – trust me, I’ve tried!
This summer I made it to the City Farm where I spent an afternoon weeding rows of beets, picking green beans, and preparing a plot for lettuce to grow. I also spent an afternoon at the Common Threads garden where children learn about agriculture by tending to strawberries, corn, squash and so much more.
*Yes, we’re wearing the same color shirt and no, that wasn’t on purpose!
The final thing I wanted to accomplish was visiting a u-pick farm where I could walk the fields and fill bushels with local, ripe fruit plucked straight off the tree. Or bush. Or ground. Or whatever it is fruit grows on.
The opportunity finally presented itself last weekend when my sister agreed to drive with me two hours to Coloma, Michigan, to pick peaches. Mid-August is a little between seasons for many Illinois u-pick orchards, being too late for strawberries and too early for apples. Plus peaches don’t grow in northern Illinois, something to do with the climate and lake effect I think. So off to Michigan we ventured and had a fantastic time at two orchards, bringing home 1/2 bushel of peaches and a pint of raspberries, all hand-picked.
The stop was at Fruit Acres Farms and it was amazing. They had two varieties of peaches: White Blushing Star Freestone and Star 66 Freestone. There were a lot of people around and the staff was very friendly and helpful. Most of the peaches were a little too hard to eat right then, although I did manage to consume a few, but were fantastic after a few days when I discovered I preferred the yellow Star 66 over the white peaches.
After Fruit Acres we drove about a half mile up the road to Jollay Orchards just to check it out and found delicious u-pick raspberries. This orchard is more family-oriented with a play area for kids and picnic tables, although they charge admission to the entertainment parts (no admission just to pick). We picked a pint of raspberries then went in search of the peaches and got four to try (we already have 20 pounds in the car).
Jollay Orchards also had a lot of apple trees with a few different varieties that look like they’ll be ready in a few weeks, although for apples I should be able to stay a bit closer to home.
All-in-all it was a fabulous day with my sister, very relaxing and rewarding. Afterward I spent the entire week making peach-inspired concoctions and learning a new skill: how to can food! (Coming soon to a computer near you!)