Thursday, September 1, 2011

Live Well: A Pickin' and a Grinnin' in Virginia (GIVEAWAY CLOSED)

"The mountains looks like teeth today...there is something unfathomably beautiful about old, broken down sheds in the country..."

That's what I wrote in my journal as a 13-year-old while riding to Morris Orchard to purchase apple cider with my Mom and Grandma almost 20 years ago. The drive, the scenery, and the organic opportunity to pick your own fruit and buy local, rural products still have the same affect on me as it did back then.

This is the prime time for pickin' in Virginia. The grinnin' is naturally implied.

I was proud to see that one of our own orchards were mentioned in Woman's Day article America's 10 Best Apple-Picking Spots: you can buy local wine and homemade apple and peach donuts atop the mountain at Carter Mountain Orchard. Instead of winding, country roads you'll find Carter Mountain near the heart of Charlottesville, VA.

However, I am partial to the orchards closer to home, each charming and individual in it's own way, offering a variety of activities and surprises tucked into their nooks and crannies:

Morris Orchard

The Basics

Morris Orchard is located in the town of Moneta, just off 29N (let's say on the way to Carter Mountain) before you reach the town of Amherst. This orchard was the staple for my family throughout my childhood and teenage years. Although they cannot take debit or credit cards (the cash only option makes it more charming although I have to imagine it damages their business somewhat) the non-commercial aspects of the facility, as well as the loyalty of the local customers, anchors the orchard. You can buy Gala, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Ginger Gold, and Russet and the biggest sweet potatoes known to mankind.

They just started their first batch of cider this week. They also have honey, a variety of jams, and butters all from Virginia and a batch of goats and bunnies (this is a popular spot for children's field trips, obviously). 

I personally prefer to take grandmas and dogs.

                                                        (she found one blackberry)

Quirks and Perks

While there, you may splurge and purchase a signed copy of Florence Nixon's In the Shadow of Tobacco Row Mountain: Elon, Monroe, and Other Villages. I am a sucker for these types of books because they are limited quantity and they are by local authors, not to mention the local history with photos included. It's easy to find information about major historical sites but when you are curious about the christening of a oddly named, old country road, these books are gems. 

Johnson's Orchard

The Basics

I personally find Bedford to be one of the most charming Virginia towns and while meandering through the back roads, you'll find Johnson's Orchard. I will keep the basics simple because Johnson's Orchard has so MANY quirks and perks. You'll find almost 200 varieties of apple trees, several photo opts with a giant Johnny Appleseed, and the obligatory collection of jams, jellies, and spreads. The sales areas is their old packing shed so again, you have the real deal.

Perks and Quirks

Mostly everyone already realizes that I'm enamored with the proprietor, Danny Johnson, mostly because of the similarities between him and his fruit wine: you either love him or hate him (snooty people prefer both their wines and their company "dry"), he's always good for entertainment, and the intoxicating effect is a given. He also goes well with both cheese and chocolate.

The farm is friendly to children, dogs, and vacationers with a "petting zoo" and a rural retreat called Elmo's Rest. They offer over 25 wines (mostly sweet), a number of festivals, and the entertainment is second to none. 


The Basics

One of the best things about Flippin-Seaman is the drive to get there. I love Nelson County and I think if everyone knew about it, they would want to live there. The Seaman's allow you to pick your own September 17-18th and the Flippin family allows you to pick your own October 8-9. The view is nice, it's good exercise, and you get apples.

Quirks and Perks

The Apple Butter Makin' Festival is a marvelous opportunity to enjoy the fall weather and try something new with the family. There is also a corn maze which is a bucket list must and the usual crafts and food vendors. If you miss October 1st you can go back the 15th.


One of my public followers will be self selected to receive Peach Moonshine Jelly from Carter Mountain Orchard and one will be selected to receive Carter Mountain Apple Butter. You can follow my blog by using the "join this site" link to the right.

Another winner selected at random will win a gift set from Carter Mountain including Apple Salsa, Peach Donut Cider, and Raspberry Vinaigrette. Make certain to leave your contact info in case you win if you don't have an account.


Go to Carter Mountain Orchard's Website and leave a comment stating what else you would like to try.

Additional Entries:

Visit the Charlottesville tourism site and comment on one thing you would love to do while vacationing in Charlottesville.

Visit the Prince Michel site and comment on a wine you would like to try.

Giveaway ends October 14th.

Congratulations to David and Anastasia!