Today was our first in the Fall series of Saturdays at Fishkill Farms and all I have to say is, “what a difference the apple season makes!” The farm, while bustling throughout the summer, was positively packed on this sunny, prime apple-picking Saturday. And as happy I am for Josh and Hannah and the rest of the farm folks for their well-earned success this season, I was glad for our hike off the beaten orchard trail today.
Our morning was spent hiking out along the main orchard drag to a tractor trail which led us into the woods and eventually into an old orchard area. We were off in search of signs of autumn as well as to collect materials for our equinox crowns we would be making later. The highlight of our hike was the variety of miniature wildlife we encountered. From monarchs and swallowtails to leaf hoppers, honeybees, big yellow spiders and one fabulously hairy caterpillar, the kids swarmed around whenever I called out, “wait until you guys see what I found!” Tonight, looking through my photographs of the day’s adventures, I did a little research on the crazy, fuzzy black and white caterpillar we found among the leaf litter on the trail. I had picked him (her?) up gingerly holding the leaf that was his home telling the children that they could touch with “just one finger.” This was definitely a naturalist’s lesson for me, because my research revealed this fabulous guy, who I joked might metamorphosis into a skunk because of his markings, to be a Hickory Tussock Moth larvae–one known to have tiny stinging spines among its fuzz. All of us were left unstung, including myself who allowed the critter to crawl on the back of my hand so that I might have a better photo-op, though I will now modify my “one finger” rule to “look with your eyes only,” unless we are absolutely sure what we’re dealing with!
The wildlife wasn’t our only thrill today. The autumn flora was equally attractive and the kids filled their baskets to the brim with everything from black walnuts to the group’s favorite–ripe milkweed pods. They cracked them open and wonderously revealed the fluffy seeds inside, throwing them into the wind like confetti. Later, when we worked on our crowns, the double-stick tape I brought for the project became matted with milkweed fluff making it a bit difficult to attach the other decorations the kids brought to the table!
The hustle and bustle on the farm presented opportunities for much diversion after our program ended and most folks stayed on to have lunch, gather apples and other provisions from the farm store and heading out to the orchards for some picking themselves.
Autumn on the farm.