On a Saturday in early October, my wife, daughter and I went to McHenry County’s version of Jerusalem — Royal Oak Farm Orchard west of Hebron. It’s owned by Christians. The gift shop is filled with stuff imprinted with Bible verses. It’s closed on Sundays. And there’s one tree in the center of the orchard from which you’re not allowed to pick any fruit. (I’m just kidding about that last one.) The place was packed. We had to park in a muddy field. The gift shop was impossible to get in and out of, and the line for the bathrooms …
About 30 different varieties of apples grow in the orchard, six or seven of which were ready for picking when we were there. We paid $27 for a half-bushel plastic bag (which seemed pretty steep) and set out.
We were told we could taste test any of the apples before deciding which ones to pick, so I did.
As it turned out, we all preferred the Empires, and that’s what we filled our bag with. (To those of you who live outside of Chicagoland — “with” is a perfectly acceptable word to end a sentence with.)
We filled the bag as full as it could possibly be filled — it was a heaping half-bushel.
The day started out nice enough, but it got cold and raw before we left. The mud, the crowds and the price were enough to make this a pilgrimage we probably won’t be making again soon. Oh, and Empires … we discovered that they don’t last all that long before they go mealy.