…Slackjawed that these naive ladies had probably never seen unadulterated food in their lives, I couldn’t even manage a sarcastic response.  I muttered “It’s because the apples are real.  They’re not genetically modified like the bland softball-sized ones you see in the supermarket.”

“Oh!” before a bushel of giggles filled the fresh air.  They scampered away and disappeared into the orchard.

So the 2012 apple season in Julian, California has begun.  And it’s bringing all of the urbanites out of the concrete jungle.  Only about an hour or so outside of San Diego, Julian is a cozy little mountain town nestled in the Cuyamaca range.  It is a nice little getaway from the hustle of city life, especially in the fall.

There are some 10 apple orchards (about 5 are the u-pick style) in and around Julian.  We picked (get it, “picked”?) the Raven Hill Orchard (RHO) because of an article I saw on a San Diego Travels webpage here.  I read about Patrick Brady, orchard owner as well as sculpturist.  My  curiosity piqued at the article’s phrase “quite a character to behold”, and believing that artists infuse passion and joy into life, I figured his orchard would exhibit the same sentiment.  I love fascinating places and intriguing people, but memorable moments happen when both coincide.  I couldn’t wait to see what our first visit to an apple orchard would bring.

We arrive at the front gate at 10am.  Greeted by a sign bearing the politically correct translation of “Use your head for something other than a hat rack.  If you couldn’t tell, you’re not in your comfy, cozy padded cell where you can hurt nothing more than your own feelings.  It’s the outdoors.  Everything here is 3-dimensional and may bite.”, we enter.

How dangerous can picking apples be? Newton discovered gravity in a place like this…

Inside we see the man, the myth, the keeper of the apples, Patrick Brady.  Donning a black leather hat, camo pants, and a lion’s mane of hair, he waves us in.  All I can say is, if there is a ‘most interesting man in Julian’, we just found him.

“Health starts here!” as he points to the ground in front of us.

At $10 a bag, it’s definitely cheaper than a visit to the pharmacy.  With a smile, Steph asks for 3 bags of health.  That’s one bag for each of us!  (I don’t think Worm can eat a whole bag of apples by himself.  But since he is not typically known to share, I’ll probably snake an apple or two from his bag every day.  It’s not like he can count either!)

We wander down the gaps between the trees, stopping to inspect the apples and take in the warm breeze of the morning.

Steph, being the apple connoisseur, showed Worm and I how to pick the apples. Women just know these things!  It’s built into their DNA!  (She didn’t believe killing the apples with our bow and arrows set was necessary.)

Guys, be gentle. Ripe apples will easily detach from the tree. Don’t take the part with the leaves!

Pretty soon, Worm and I got into the spirit and gently plucked a few ripe ones for our respective stashes.  Since I have the luxury of being tall (extremely tall for Southern California), I was able to get to the apples that lesser mortals couldn’t reach.  Lucky for us, the orchard was chock full of fruit for everyone.  In fact, our whole family filled up our bags before we made it to some of the other apple varieties.  (The Raven Hill Orchard grows 7 apple types:  Empire, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Gravenstein, Jonathan, and Pippin)  Although the picking season runs from September to late October, it’s best to go before the apples have been totally picked through.  Otherwise, you’ll be doing your apple picking at one of the local markets.

It’s a Good Thing We Are Tall, Huh Dad?

After a nice half hour among the fruit trees, we head back to the entrance to pay for our apples.  We get a chance to talk a little bit with Patrick, the owner.  He’s definitely a straight-shooting, no-frills type of guy.  A gently forceful and honest type that will look you directly in the eyes when he speaks.  We chat on different topics centered around health in America, etc.  An hour later, his lovely wife comes down for a visit and we get to meet his 3 month old twin babies.  The entire day was enjoyable, interesting, and wonderful.  After a visit to downtown Julian for some pie and cider, I can’t say that we could have had a more perfect day.

Hanging Out With Patrick at Raven Hill Orchard

Support local farmers and growers!

Related Links:

Raven Hill Orchard Facebook Page

Picking Apples Raven Hill Orchard

Patrick Brady – Man of All Seasons

Julian, California Webpage