Last year we took the kids apple-picking for the first time. Because it was my wife’s first Northeastern fall after a lifetime in Southern California, she had never been either. We chose Silverman’s Farm in Easton, CT based on word of mouth, and one Saturday in late September we put the kids in the car and drove up. In addition to the actual trees and typical farm stand, this particular place offered hayrides up to the orchard as well as a petting zoo. It ended up being a great choice, since those two activities were the highlight of the trip for our son, who was barely 2 at the time. It took about ten minutes of convincing to get him to even touch an apple on one of the trees, but he absolutely loved the various animals, and he cried when the tractor came to a stop and we had to get him off the hay cart.
This year, we’re gearing up to go again as soon as fall sets in, but we’re not taking any chances. We bought some small planting pots this summer, stuck some herbs and a tomato plant in them, and set them out on the porch. At first, they did not elicit any response from the children. However, everything changed once the tomatoes started to come in. Both our kids became obsessed with the tomato plant; we lost a couple of great-looking pieces of fruit to our daughter’s overzealous picking (she seems to like green ones the best and will ignore ripe specimens). Our son is now an expert on tomato pigmentation, and will engage us in protracted arguments about the exact line between “dark orange” and “red.” We have one lonely little fruit left on the vine, and he’s been asking about it every day for over a week. Is it ready? Can it be picked today? If not, surely tomorrow will be the day? I know it’s still mostly yellow, but we’ve taken ones that were mostly red with a yellow patch at the top, and isn’t this really the same thing? He will also pull what is currently his favorite trick: He will innocently ask his sister if she wants to pick the tomato, working on her like a seasoned campaign volunteer in the last days of an election.
That little tomato plant has served as the object of many lessons this summer. We’ve learned where food comes from, and that it takes time and effort to grow it. We also know about patience; sometimes we have to wait until the time is just right to do something we want to do. Visiting an orchard and picking a few apples is nice, but there’s no substitute for watching something grow, day after day, until it’s finally ready.