The apple orchard

As my Bride’s Diplomacy Guide is printing out — I love this moment! Ink on paper means it’s concept-to-book — let me tell you about the amazing date that Joe planned…

We drove out to Chester to go apple picking. Since I’m a romantic, I imagined an endless field of bright, red shiny apples in bright green trees, a red-and-white checkered picnic blanket, bushels and bushels of apples with which to make strudel and apple pie, then some hot cider at the farm stand. Maybe I’d even climb a tree and toss a few apples down to him. We got to the farm — and farm area in NJ is BEAUTIFUL — and noticed some signs on the fence at the entrance to the orchard: “Apples are biennial. We had a bumper crop last year, so there are no apples to be picked. But you can pay us a quarter for a bag to pick up all the crappy apples on the ground.” (I’m paraphrasing). Since we’re both optimists, we figured there HAVE to be apples still on the trees. So we held hands and walked into the orchard, navigating mud puddles and deep ruts from the tractors. Rather than apple picking, we went Apple Stepping, trying not to slide on rotten apples…and it was great. Joe has the best sense of humor on earth, so we joked our way through the orchard before going to a different farm a bit up the road. The farm with the buffalo and the corn maze.

Seriously, if you don’t know NJ farm country, get there. It’s fantastic.

So there we are at farm #2. And the first thing we do is go into a corn maze. But first we had to watch the Liability Video. No smoking in the corn maze, no cursing in the corn maze, no picking the corn, etc. That opens up a LOT of jokes about what you CAN do in the corn maze. So there we are, two educated, accomplished people, with crayons and workbooks to answer the Captain Corncob (or whatever his name was) trivia questions at each stop in the maze. We’re moving through the maze, using the ‘which way feels right’ intuition compass to guide us — and this thing is HUGE. There are wooden elevated bridges so that you can get a feel for where you are in the maze, tight twists and turns, and the winds are blowing the dry corn stalks, hawks circle in the sky (Joe jokes that they’re actually buzzards for the people who don’t get out of the maze), and about 40 minutes in, we get hit with extreme thirst and hunger. I felt like I was on Survivor, and it got less and less fun by the minute for both of us. We’re turning corners, and I’m saying, “I don’t want to learn anything else!” when we run into Captain Corncob’s inexplicable astronaut trivia (Huh?). Yeah, that’s about enough of this…so we figured out our way back to the entrance — since we had entered at the exit, technically, we finished the thing — and we were free. It was fantastic, and there just might be some notes still written on dry corn husks in that maze (It wasn’t in the video that you couldn’t write on the corn husks!)

We grabbed lunch at the farm stand and then discovered that they had espresso and cappuccino inside the farm store. Espresso and cappuccino! And it’s my guess that those vats out back held all the apples from the other farm. Genius! 😉 We then went to see the buffalo, who was resting quietly while some woman was shouting ‘Here buffalo! Here buffalo! Come on, buffalo!’ And then she yelled at her husband, ‘Do NOT give the buffalo an apple if he doesn’t listen to me!’ I absolutely love moments like this. Snapshots of people’s interactions. They will, I’m sure, show up in one of my novels someday. As will a cornmaze. Use what you know.

So Joe planned the perfect fall date…made all the better by how quick he is with the rapid-fire jokes about the unexpected. He makes the unpredictability of life something to look forward to. And he made this a fantastic weekend. I’m all recharged and ready to take on a bigtime pitching week before taking off two days to set up for the Halloween party. We’re still getting RSVPs — the word is out. As for costumes, I’ll save that report for tomorrow.

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