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.

Free events at the town library

My boys and I recently moved back to the town I grew up in, and it’s been so strange being back in my hometown after 20 years. Man, just saying that out loud makes me feel old. We had quite the group of friends in Florida, for both me and my boys. It’s been challenging at times to find things to keep ourselves busy and we have become frequent visitors to the town’s library. 

It is the cutest little library, with such a tight knit small community feeling to it. Oddly, I don’t remember frequenting the library as much as when I was a kid as I am now. As I was signing my oldest up for the summer reading program, I noticed that the library had all these free events and classes that you could register for. Being on a very strict budget right now, the word FREE struck my mind. One night while enjoying a glass of wine I got clicker happy and signed up for just about every event they had for the summer, lol. We did not end up attending all the events we signed up for, but we did manage to participate in three of them and they were a hit.

Bug Day

First up, Bug Day! Let’s get real. I am not a fan of bugs. I really find it odd that anyone would want to study bugs as their profession. But, as a mom to two little boys, I’ve often been forced to go on bug hunts, and create an overnight habitat for my son’s most recent find. It’s definitely forced me to get out of my comfort zone when it comes to outside creatures. Isn’t it funny how being a mom can do that? It’s amazing how many new things I’ve been forced to try since becoming a mom.

My oldest was right in his element. He had a blast. I was very thankful that my mom decided to tag along, as what I had thought was going to be an entirely outside event, started with a 45 min presentation inside talking about the anatomy of bugs. Totally manageable for my 7-year-old, but my very active 21-month-old…well anyone that has a toddler knows how that ends up. Unfortunately (maybe?), I missed most of the inside presentation as I was chasing my toddler up and down the library stairs as we waited for the group to go outside for the bug hunt. 

Eventually a large group of happy, energetic kids scurried outside with tiny jars in their hands, ready to go hunt for the bugs they had learned about. It brought me so much joy to watch all the kids running around, digging through dirt, looking at the trees, underneath the rocks, working together to find in (their eyes) a bunch of miraculous insects. I was amazed to see how all of them were helping each other out when some kids were getting sad that they hadn’t caught one. Thankfully to all the moms and dads there, the teacher made them free their finds before returning home, so I didn’t end up coming home with 5 new insects. 

Pirates lost at sea with Talewise

Next up on the calendar was Pirates Lost at Sea with Talewise and my son and I absolutely loved this one! Out of the three events we attended this was my absolute favorite. I was extremely thankful that my mom agreed to watch my youngest which allowed me to be fully present and enjoy watching this extremely engaging event with the kids. Talewise is an interactive educational S.T.EA.M program for libraries, schools, scouts, camps, etc. It’s a program emphasized on story telling all while teaching kids that science can be fun. A woman from Talewise was there and she told an interactive story about two boys out at sea encountering pirates and throughout the story she incorporated science experiments for the children to participate in. It was nonstop engagement and interaction with the kids, and I found myself smiling and laughing throughout the entire presentation. My son LOVES science and stories, so it was perfect for him. From toilet paper blowing from the waves at sea, to eruptions and more, I can’t say enough positive things about this performance. I would definitely attend another event hosted by them!

Summer concert with the Toe Jam Puppet Band

The last event that we attended was a celebration of the completion of the summer reading program. The Toe Jam Puppet Band came to perform, and my son had an amazing time. The Toe Jam Puppet Band is a children’s entertainment group from New Bedford MA. Unfortunately for this one I did not get to participate as much, as my 20-month-old was with me and had an ear infection and I think the loudness of the band was a little too much for his ears. Him and I spent the majority of the time in and out of the room where the band was playing, running up and down the halls, and trying to persuade him back in the room. Normally this would be something he would LOVE, so it totally caught me off guard when he started crying. Although I didn’t get to see the whole performance, every chance I had to sneak back in the room was greeted with dancing, laughing and full-on fun for the kids. My son was smiling, jumping around, and having the time of his life. They ended the show with some hula hooping and I was very impressed at all kids’ hula skills!

Toe Jam Puppet Band