Apple picking with my boys

Ever since we moved to New England this past April, I have been looking forward to doing all the fall things. It’s been so long since I’ve experienced a New England fall and have been so excited to introduce my boys to new traditions, ones that we didn’t have in Florida. In the entire 17 years of living in Florida, I think fall was what I missed most. And one of the traditions I’ve been most looking forward to establishing with my boys is apple picking! So, after a long week of being sick and quarantining, despite the iffy weather, my mom and I loaded them up and spent a lovely wet Sunday afternoon apple picking at Carlson Orchards.

carlson orchards

Oh, so many apples

The last time we visited Carlson Orchards was to go berry and peach picking and I quickly learned how huge this place was. So, this time, I was smart and remembered to bring the stroller as I anticipated doing a lot of walking to pick the various amounts of apples they had. Some of the apples were well known names I had heard of like the famous Honey Crisp along with well-known apple’s Macintosh, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Empire and Gala. But there were also a couple I had never heard of like Ida, and Northern Spy apples, wasn’t a huge fan of those. My boys had a great time tasting all the different varieties. My almost 2-year-old kept picking the fallen apples off the ground and putting them in our bag, lol. I did my best to keep an open mind about the different kinds of apples available, but I have to say, in my opinion none compare quite as much to the honey crisp. There’s a reason why they are so much more per pound in the store and the reason why they have the word “crisp” in its name. They were so good. They were the very last rows in the orchard, and they actually had a wagon being pulled by a tractor out to the sections that were a longer walk. We had to walk all the way to the end as they were pretty picked over, but if you’re patient and willing to walk a bit and look hard there are still plenty of honey crisp apples out there. They also had a ton of rows roped off that weren’t for picking yet, so I’m sure they’ll have plenty of apples for weeks to come.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away and brings the tooth fairy to visit!

We love apples in our house! My little guy goes around all day saying, “apple, apple”. He sounds so much like a broken record these days…toddler life. It’s the cutest little “apple” though and there could be worse foods that he could be asking for. I love that my boys love fruit. We had an unexpected tooth falling out while apple picking! My son lost his first front tooth a few weeks ago, and the second one has been loose since. It had been hanging on by a thread and he has been super picky about what he’s been eating for fear of it falling out. Don’t get me wrong, he has been excited about another visit from the tooth fairy (really amazes me how much she’s giving these days ;-), but he is not a fan of any blood, and he gets super anxious about it falling out. I was actually surprised he was eating so many apples while picking for that reason, as he hadn’t wanted to touch an apple in weeks. I think the excitement of apple picking made him forget all about his tooth hanging by a thread until…I heard a shriek in the orchard followed by, “Mom!!” I turned around and there he was freaking out because his tooth was literally dangling, not sure how the apple didn’t pull it all the way out. I gave it the smallest little tug and we went home with not only a big bag of apples, but also a tooth for the fairy.

We have a huge bag of apples that I’m looking forward to making an apple crisp with. My oldest has been taking an apple with him daily for his school snack, so at $30 a bag (yikes…) we are getting our money’s worth. I will say that with the number of apples we ate while picking we definitely got our $30 worth. I’m hoping to try one more orchard out for comparison before the season is over! Next time we’ll try to go on a beautiful fall day instead of a rainy one.

Animals, trails, ice cream and more at Great Brook Farm

I’ve been writing a lot about our go to outdoor adventure spots, and this place has quickly become a favorite of ours. If you caught my stories this week you may have seen they have some pretty feisty chickens, so if you get an ice cream there, you may be safer eating inside ;-). Great Brook Farm State Park is a public, day-use recreation area featuring an active dairy farm in the town of Carlisle, Massachusetts. It has more than 20 miles of trails that you can walk and bike in the non-winter months and cross-country ski in the winter. There is so much to do and explore here and I’ll take you through a day here with the boys.

Active Dairy Farm

First stop is usually the dairy farm. Depending on the time of day we go we usually will start with visiting and feeding the animals and getting a yummy ice cream. The ice cream house opens at 11, so plan your visit accordingly. The animals have to be our absolute part. They are all incredibly active and friendly and they have a quarter machine with food, so be sure to bring lots of quarters! They have free range chickens, pigs, cows, goats, sheep and llamas. My favorites are the goats and llamas! The boys have so much fun petting and feeding them.

The ice-cream is delicious, and you can also get hot dogs and chips. They have a cute little store inside with lots of fun farm-based toys and books. My favorite ice cream flavor so far has to be the coconut almond bar…it’s delicious and my almost 2-year-old loves it too. The children’s size is perfect for my 7-year-old, and I usually share one with my toddler. I like that they have a “good size” children size here. So many ice cream stands go a bit overboard for the kiddy ice cream if you ask me. This week we took our ice cream outside and my 7-year-old made the mistake of giving one of the chickens a bite of his ice cream. Immediately afterwards the chicken jumped up and grabbed a bite himself and another one jumped up on the table and tried to take my toddlers! They are not shy, and they will go after your treats, so if you are at all skittish of wild chickens, I’d eat your treat inside!

Exploring the trails and pond

There are over 20 miles of trails at the park, but don’t let that intimidate you. We generally walk the trails right around the dairy farm and it’s the perfect little trail walk with little kids. I’m getting to that point with my almost 2-year-old where he no longer wants to be in a stroller, and when I put him down, he just takes off at lighting speed. So far wearing him on these trails has been the best option, but I do let him down to explore too. Most of the trails start off in the woods and have sections in open fields, we hardly ever pass anyone so it’s always a very peaceful and quiet walk. This week near the parking area they had signs of a guided story on one of the trails. I absolutely LOVED this idea. The had all the pages of the book printed out and staked throughout the trail. Sadly my 7-year-old was in a bit of a mood and wasn’t interested, but normally he would love that kind of thing.

One of the favorite spots for my 7-year-old is the pond down the hill from the dairy farm. It’s adjacent to a large field that habitats lots of geese. Watch your step, as there is lots of geese poop. It’s absolutely beautiful here, with lily pads and beautiful green grass and trees. My son loves to look for frogs, and we’ve seen a few snakes too.

If you decide to visit you do have to pay $3 for parking on a machine, so make sure you bring a card. If traveling with a little one, I recommend bringing either a carrier or a stroller if you plan to explore the trails. It’s a wonderful morning or afternoon out so I encourage you to get out there and meet the animals, explore the trails, and reward yourself with a scoop! Happy exploring, be sure to let me know your thoughts if you visit.

Berry picking, peach picking and more at Carlson Orchards

One of the things I’ve been most excited about since moving back to New England is being able have my boys experience all the exciting things each season has to offer. You can pick berries in Florida, but not without a drive, and the experience just doesn’t compare. A dear friend of mine who has been a huge support during this transitional time sent me a gift card last week and told me to use it to do something fun with the boys. So, when a mom friend I grew up with here recommended Carlson’s Orchards I immediately knew where to put the gift card to use.

Carlson Orchards, peach and berry picking

We had the best experience. Not only did they have blueberry, raspberry, peach and apple picking but they also have an amazing tap room with a huge variety of hard ciders, apple cider slushes for the kids, and delicious pizza. It is very kid friendly with an open-air barn style tap room, and an outdoor playing area where the little ones can run wild and play cornhole.

When we first arrived, we saw that we had a choice of picking blueberries, raspberries and peaches. If you plan to go, be sure to check their growing schedule on their website as it tells you what fruits they have available and when. This place is HUGE. The only thing I wish I had done differently was bring a wagon or another adult. With my 21-month-old, and the heat, it was a bit of walk in between the blueberry and the peach farm. Luckily my 7-year-old stepped up and carried the large carton of peaches that we harvested. My youngest ate more berries than we collected, and I don’t think he put a single one in the carton…He was in heaven.

After a good hour of picking and walking around I was looking forward to an adult beverage and the boys were excited to have some pizza. The service was excellent, the kids LOVED the apple cider slushies, and I decided to sample the Pioneers flight which was a lot of fun to drink.

We were told that they often have live music on the weekends as well as different food trucks on the farm too. We left with enough peaches to feed an army, a quart full of berries, happy bellies and full of smiles, minus me wrangling my toddler at the end! When it’s time to go, it’s time to go with an almost 2-year-old. All you mommas out there know what I mean.

We can’t wait to go back and pick apples in a month, and I’m hoping to find another mom friend to come with us!

Adventures at East Boston Camps

When my boys and I moved to New England a few months ago, it was a huge change for all of us. I was born and raised here but have been living in Florida since 2005. My now 7-year-old, has grown up living on the water, fishing off the dock, and exploring Florida’s water life. We live to be outdoors, and as a mom of two very active little boys, our days go so much more smoothly if we spend a lot of time outside. 

Exploring East Boston Camps

East Boston Camps is 286 acres of trails, ponds and camp buildings located within the Stony Brook Conservation Land. I remember going to East Boston Camps as a kid with my dad. These are some of my fondest memories with him and after losing him several years ago. It’s been nice to share these moments with my own kids. It’s amazing how the place hasn’t changed in all these years. Even the camp buildings are the originals. When we were kids my brother spent a week of overnight camp here in elementary school. Unfortunately, his class didn’t behave and ruined it for the younger generations ;-). Just looking at the dock’s memories came flooding in of my dad and I swimming across the pond, biking the trails and jumping into the water to cool off on those hot summer days. I’ve loved re-exploring it all through the eyes of my boys. 

My family home, that I’m now living in with my mom, is only 5 minutes from this little outdoor oasis. You could literally spend hours here hiking different trails, fishing, swimming, creature hunting, exploring the campgrounds and sighting trains. Seriously, a little boy’s dream place! It has quickly become a go to weekly spot for us. Everyday we go we always see something new, from the biggest frog I’ve ever seen, to more snakes than I’d care to say. It’s always an adventure and has become our happy place. My oldest even had the privilege of doing a week of camp here this summer and he had a blast, hiking, fishing and swimming. 

If you’re local, and you’ve never been, I encourage you to put some sneakers and bug spray on, pack some snacks and sandwiches and get out there and explore. Something about being out in nature, with my boys, has brought me so much peace during a difficult time. 

Black Raspberry, the Narwhal of the Berry Family

Is it a Blackberry, Raspberry, or Black Raspberry? Do you know the difference? 

A few weeks ago, we had dear friends visit. Our sons have been buddies since they were 3 and us mommas became great friends through their friendship. We were so excited when they told us they were coming to visit us! The boys were out back exploring, looking for bugs when they ran in to tell us they discovered a berry bush. Berries are my boy’s absolute favorite thing, so berries on a bush in the backyard? Well, it doesn’t get much better than that. I grew up in this house and I remember picking berries next door as a child, but I don’t remember ever having any berry trees in our yard. 

black raspberry or wild raspberry

The boys told us that they thought it was a blackberry and a raspberry bush, and that’s exactly what it looked like. But the blackberries were much smaller than the blackberries you find in the store, and much less harry too. My friend did a little research and it turned out it wasn’t either of those, but a black raspberry. Did you know there was such a thing? In all my 39 years of life I did not know that there was a black raspberry, but that makes more sense out the loveable back raspberry ice-cream.

I started doing some research on our newfound berry bush and it turns out that black raspberries are rather rare and is like the narwhal of the berry world. Wow, that makes me feel like we have quite the little gem in our backyard, lol. They are also sometimes referred to a bear’s eye blackberry, black cap, black cap raspberry, and my favorite scotch cap. The taste is very similar to the French liquor, Chambord.

My son has been loving watching what looks like a raspberry turn to a black raspberry, anxiously waiting each day for this precious fruit to be ready to pick. Sadly, we went out to pick some yesterday and it appeared that an animal beat us to it. I hope there are more to come.

If you’re outside exploring your backyard and come across a berry bush, here’s how to tell if it’s a blackberry or black raspberry. Black berries are larger, have hair, and have a little bit of whole on the bottom. Black raspberries are pretty much identical to raspberries but black! But they taste much sweeter.

If you live in New England, I encourage you to get outside and hunt for these wild bushes. Summer is the season! Happy berry hunting 🙂