Friday, November 27, 2009

Only the Good Friday, November 27, 2009

Maple Leaf Orchard, Spring Valley, Wisconsin

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that man does lives after them, the "Good" is oft interred with their bones.....

Marc Antony, From his famous speech at Caesar’s funeral.

I think that’s right. Over at the coffee shop, in the mornings, some of the guys might be talking about someone. Sometimes it’s not pretty. Sometimes they talk about that “evil that men do”. Not too often do I hear, or speak for that matter, about some ”Good” that someone has done. Mostly because when people do “Good”, they are humble and silent about their deeds. Most people that serve others don’t do it for the accolades, they do it because their heart tells them to act on a matter.

This is the case with the Maple Leaf Orchard in nearby Spring Valley, WI. Mark and Sue Christopher bought this beautiful piece of land in the mid 1980’s and started planting trees, apple trees, pear trees, maple trees. By the mid 1990’s, the fruit was coming full force. The rolling hills and wooded landscape among farm fields of corn make a pretty site in any time of the year, but Fall, and harvest time is the best. The sunlight on the apples, the ones not yet picked, and the colors of pumpkins, squash, yellows and reds of the fruit, amber glow of the honey and maple syrup just blend together and make a pallet unlike any artist could create.

A long row of boxed apples. Many varieties to choose from.

What’s really “Good” about Maple Leaf Orchard is the fact that the Christophers’ choose to share their harvest with the local food shelf. Every week, on Wednesday, I go out to the orchard with a friend. His name is Nick. Nick drives, I go along for the ride and help where I can. We pick up 150 pounds, that’s 30 five pound bags, of first quality apples, and take them to River Falls to be added to the food shelf. Mark tells us that he will do this until he closes down for the Winter in January. The orchard also sponsors school field trips. Students are shown how honey and maple sap for making syrup is harvested. They have a great pumpkin patch, and are generally "Good" neighbors.

A display of squash and potatoes along with cookbooks.

Other places donate to the food shelf as well. Individuals, large stores, small stores, and people give of their time. People use their vehicles and gas to bring donations. It is a “Good” thing. When I mentioned to Sue that I was going to write a story about the Orchard and how they unselfishly give the food away, her first reaction was, “No”. She didn’t want publicity about it because to her and Mark, it was the right thing to do.

Maple Syrup, Honey, Jams and Jellies.

Since we started picking up the apples, over a month ago, I started buying apples and pears. At first, it was just a few. I had to try them out. I tell you, there is nothing like a fresh picked piece of fruit grown in the valley, cooled by nature and flavored by the sun, rain and soil. Now when I go, I am getting bags full of Honeycrisp variety apples and Parker variety pears. I’ve also tried other types of apples. Greening, Jonathan, Sweet 16, Connel and Cortland. Every morning at breakfast, a few apples are cut up and the wedges served along with cold cereal, oatmeal and toast. Everyday, the little dishes are empty. Mrs. Spadoman and eldest daughter take some fruit to work for lunch and snacks. I tell you I can’t keep that stuff in the house!

Apples ready to pick, late in the season.

Heavily laden with apples.

Now, I bought some Yukon Gold potatoes, and I served them for the Thanksgiving dinner I prepared. I’ve made soups with them and just sliced and fried them. The red spuds are “Good” too! And nothing compares to the slices of freshly cut apple dipped in caramel sauce warmed up in a hot water bath on the stove. We even hand chop some peanuts and dip the apple slice oozing with caramel into them. YUM!

A sign right for the time.

The sign above has "Good" meaning. Buying fresh from local farmers and growers benefits the community and provides healthy alternatives to processed canned foods. The Land Stewardship Project that The Christophers' are a part of has more information about how supporting local farms helps the economy and has many ecological benefits. All "Good".

Maple Leaf Orchard also harvests Maple sap and hence Pure Maple Syrup. They have bee hives and produce Top Quality Honey. Mark presses Apple Cider as well and it is delicious. They have home made jellies and jams, berries to pick when they are in season and a large pumpkin patch. They produce the sweet pie pumpkins for making fresh pumpkin pie. (I made two for Thanksgiving).

Some of the Grandkids with Na and Papa, oh, and the scarecrow!

All in all, it was quite a find to get out into the countryside and buy from a local farm instead of buying produce that has been in storage for months after being shipped from thousands of miles away. And it is a “Great” thing, rather than just “Good”, that Mark and Sue Christopher give away some of their profit to the food shelf. They set an example that I am now more aware of.

The front part of this large shed is the store. Sorting, bagging of apples and other tasks are done in the rest of the building.

This is the “Good” I find today. And the practice of looking for “Good” has made me see more “Good” amidst a world that can be most terrible at times. Look for the "Good" around you. See it, notice it, learn from it and above all, practice it. It seems to be worth the effort. Posting Only the Good on Friday is a brainstorm of Shelly's at This Eclectic Life. And we appreciate her great ideas!

Peace to all.


Unknown said...

I really liked the pictures; especially the one of you and your wife and the kids. That's a really nice picture - shows a lot of love.

susan said...

This is one of the best posts I've ever read about love and generosity. What wonderful people!

All of the photographs are great but like Pagan said the one of you and your family is best of all :-)

Mel said...

Wow would I love to have a wonder about just for the smells and sights. Yeah...LOL...and for the tastes.

Apples have been a big thing around here--but it's the season, eh? And we've made our trip to Gays Mills for a bag or two. Kinda one of those things that's become a ritual in Fall. It's just too beautiful....and too yummy. ;-)

And you're right--it's all good.
And I thank you (once again!!) for reminding me of that.

Enjoy your weekend, sir. I know I intend to....while I'm making holiday cards by the bushel. LOL

I, Like The View said...

how truly wonderful

all that gorgeous local produce

and the lovely generous people

it makes me think that you must live in a truly great part of the world