Monday, September 23, 2013

An unexpected detour while apple picking in NC

Just like that, fall has arrived. We returned from Sapelo Island where we spent the last days of summer, to cool weather, leaves changing color and the smell of autumn in the air. My thoughts instantly have turned from beaches to raking leaves and other fall chores; luckily we’ve gotten a little bit of a head start with our apple-picking trip last weekend.

We visited Sky Top Orchard in North Carolina just as we’ve done every year we’ve lived in Greenville with kids, and I hear the picking at Niven’s is good too, although we’ll save that for choosing a pumpkin in mid-October. We returned home with a bushel of apples, half Gala for eating and baking with, and the rest giant Mutsus, of which 2/3rds have already been boiled, pressed and canned into applesauce. I expected disaster without my mother here to help, but last year’s experience/lessons learned helped enormously and the afternoon passed without incident. The first muscodine jelly attempt didn’t go quite as well, but I can tell you that so far the cupboard is filling quickly with jelly, fig preserves and that beautiful applesauce.

If you make the trip to North Carolina to pick apples, please make one other stop as well. The orchard is a great fall activity with the fresh donuts, the hay rides, all the kids activities and of course the apple picking, but we only spend a few hours there. It was on a whim that we continued north on Greenville Highway to Flat Rock and the Carl Sandburg Home Historic Site.

A nationally renowned poet, biographer, folk singer, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Carl Sandburg spent the last twenty years of his life on a beautiful property in the mountains of North Carolina. His wife Liliana had discovered the farm “Connemara”, which was also called home by Christopher Memminger (biographer of Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of the Confederate Treasury) and textile tycoon Ellison Smyth. The Sandburgs moved from Michigan with three daughters, two grandchildren, a library of over 14,000 books and the Chikaming goat herd, and spent the next quarter-century running the farm in addition to Carl continuing his writing. Mr. Sandburg died at home on July 22, 1967 after which the family sold the property which today is preserved as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site.

We did not choose to take the tour of the home (which still contains all the family's personal effects), but instead stroll the grounds. The beautiful Front Lake was full of frogs and fish, and the 0.3-mile trail to the main house led us over the dam, through the woods and past the pasture and Margaret’s garden. We circled around back of the Main House (which also houses the visitor center) to see the rock outcrop which was Carl Sandburg’s favorite outdoor writing spot.

With trails (several lead all the way to Glassy Mountain), a visitor center, various annual activities, guided house tours as well as self-guided tours, there is much to do*. We especially enjoyed the goat farm, which is no longer a commercially run dairy but has descendants of Lilian’s original herd. I was told spring is especially exciting on the farm, as that is when the kids are born. After feeding the goats and exploring the barn we set off back to the car, passing all the other historic structures on our way out. Our visit was short, but it was enough to experience the beauty of Connemara and convince us a return trip is in order.

The sun on the hills is beautiful,
Or a captured sunset sea-flung,
Bannered with fire and gold.
(Carl Sandburg)

*There is a Junior Ranger program at the National Historic Site, but it is more suited for children a little older than my boys.


  1. Wow that home looks gorgeous! I'm guessing the tour would've been awesome to see. :)

  2. Ohhh this is the time of year I miss home and being to pick our own apples. Any tips on canning apple sauce? Hoping we can try our hand at it this year...

  3. It looks like you had a wonderful time! You got so much out of this trip-- history goats, and delicious apples! I really want to go apple picking, too. It seems like the perfect fall activity. I'm trying to be better about actually doing all the things on my fun fall activities list. Thanks for sharing and hope you are having a great day!

  4. I've always wanted to go to an apple orchard & pick apples! Looks like you guys had a lot of fun!

  5. Thanks for an idea! I will try to find nearly where is possible to pick up apples by ourselves!


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