Rosemary Krupar, a third grade teacher I taught with who has remained a friend, asked me if I’d like to go on a field trip on a day when there was no school. She’d set up three local stops with Matt Sorrick, a professor of science education from Hiram College who would lead and instruct the students in the world that exists in nature. Well, I didn’t have the time to give up a whole day, but I was too tempted by what seemed like a fun day to refuse her offer.
So last Friday we met in the school parking lot. Rosemary was there when I arrived as well as one student. Soon six more students came along with one father, who took the day off to experience this with his daughter, and Matt pulled up in the college van. Everyone piled into the van while I followed in my car since the last stop was only about five miles from my home.
Our first stop was at the Monroe Orchard and Farm Market. It was far more interesting than I’d thought it would be. Sue Monroe told us everything we could possibly want to know about running a large orchard of fruit trees – 27 varieties of apples alone, as well as peaches, cherries and pears. They also grow raspberries and strawberries and have a large field of pumpkins, and they make maple syrup during maple syrup season. She gave us some of the history of the farm which has been in her husband’s family since 1938, but it was much older than that.
After we walked around a bit in the orchards we went inside through their selling area with so many delicious things to choose from. From there we entered the area where the apples are sorted and cleaned. Her daughter Amanda was working there. Amanda and her sister were former students of mine. She got a degree in botany and is now working in the family business in that capacity as well as doing other things that needed done. Apples were in a machine being washed with water. When they came out they bounced down rollers until they got on a big circular drum like table with a felt top where they were again jostled about as they dried.
Amanda picked each one up, inspected it for any defects and then only if it was perfect, did she put it in a plastic bag for sale. Any blemished apples were relegated to a separate container for cider. To make the best cider, I learned, there should be at least four different kinds of apples. Using only one variety makes a cider that isn’t as tasty. From there we went into a large insulated room filled with huge crates of apples going up to the ceiling. Those had to be put in place by fork lifts. The next room had tall shelves filled with bagged apples ready for sale. Our next stop was a working area where we were each given a fresh, crunchy, juicy apple to eat and a small cup of cider while Sue Monroe answered any questions the students or adults had. Before we left, we went outside and up a large embankment to the doors the barn we’d been in that’s more than a century old. There we saw that it was jam-packed full of wooden crates they make in the winter months.
Our next stop was the Hiram Biology Field Lab where we looked at snakes, toads, frogs, fish and salamanders before our lunch.
After eating we explored the woods looking at various things Matt pointed out. The kids hunted for and found numerous salamanders. Matt instructed them on how to handle them carefully, identify the type, and to return them to the place where they were found as well as replacing any log turned over to its original position since under each log is a mini habitat. Our final stop was Nelson Ledges State Park with large rocks, crevices, cliffs, a waterfall, and narrow tunnels between huge rocks; a fun, but very dangerous place for kids who don’t listen and insist on climbing and running. Matt told us the geology of the rocks brought down by the huge glaciers and what in many places caused a split between what was once a single huge rock formation into two separate ones.
Our seven students were actively involved and interested, but kept the four adults on their toes as we moved on from place to place. I think I was a little more nervous than the other three because one of my former students fell to his death there when he was a fifteen year old Boy Scout on a hike with his troop. His father was the Boy Scout leader. There have also been a lot of other accidental deaths and serious injuries from falls there over the years.
It was a good day. The weather was cool, but sunny. I got my kid fix, and they were good even though they were dashing around like playful puppies everywhere we went. The adults were pleasant companions and the young father and I really hit it off getting acquainted. He was also kind enough to help me across rocks as we crossed back and forth across the stream at the field station and also around and over rocks blocking paths at the ledges. One narrow crevice we went through ended in a rock too high for me to step up on so Matt gave me a hand there. The kids just shimmied up. We’d had a lot of rain the previous week making the rocks and leaves on the ground slippery in places so I moved carefully.
So what part of this fun day is going to be used in a book? I doubt if Nelson Ledges will be or the Hiram Biology Field Station, at least for now. In book five “Murder in the Corn Maze” which has no plot yet. I am going to use what I’ve learned about running a huge orchard business. It’s the right time of year; they’re busy, and I know where to go when I need more questions answered. Next week I’m also planning on going to a corn maze for the first time for more research for that book.
What fun things have you done that ended up being in a book or short story?
Or if you’re not a writer, what have you done that you think would work well in a plot?"