Sunday was a beautiful day here in Nebraska, a perfect day for exploring. And if you’re lucky enough to have a Miata or some kind of vehicle in which to feel the wind whipping through your hair, this was the day to for it. It’s better than therapy, and much cheaper.
I had been wanting to go to Nebraska City for awhile. Al was a little hesitant because he had visions of crafty things and musty antique shops. But I told him I wasn’t interested in walking around downtown; I wanted to go to the apple orchards. Since apple is the main ingredient of his favorite dessert, he was happy to come along. Also, Nebraska City is home to Arbor Day Farms. Yep, that Arbor Day. This is the home of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day. And he lived very well by the looks of the mansion that we toured.
So, we headed south on Hwy 75 in search of apple delights. Our first stop was Lechner Families Union Apple Orchard.
I love places like this. It’s basically a large shed filled with yummy things: fudge, apple cider, cherry cider, apple donuts, popcorn, peanut brittle, pumpkins, apple turnovers, apple pie, cherry pie, jams, jellies, chutney, and bags and bags of different varieties of apples. Since we were heading to an even larger orchard, we decided not to get anything except for a snack of apple donuts (which really tasted more like a cinnamon donut, but that’s ok) and an apple juice slushy. Yes, a slushy of apple juice, and it was delicious, except for the ice cream headache we got from drinking it too quickly. But it was a mistake to not buy more stuff there because they really had more to offer than the other place we went. I’m actually surprised that Al got me out of there without buying the peanut butter/chocolate fudge. I had it in my hand, heading to the checkout when I remembered that the temperature was going to get into the upper 80s today. Next time I come here, I’m bringing a cooler. That way, I can also get the apple sausages and the frozen apple turnovers. And since it’s only about 30 minutes away, I will be back.
After our snack of donuts and frozen apple juice, we headed down the road to Kimmel Orchards.
This orchard has been around since 1925, and it is quite the tourist attraction. They have a hiking trail through the orchard, a u-pick business, haystack rides (a tractor pulling a cart with haystacks for seats), educational tours, and wine. Oh, and a gift shop and country store, too, of course. They didn’t have the selection of the Union Orchard store, but being able to walk around the orchard was a good trade. So many varieties of apples! Plus trees of cherries (well, actually it was past cherry season, but the trees are still there), pears, peaches and vines of grapes for their own wine. We passed on the wine tasting this time. There are several wineries here in Nebraska, and we will one day do some touring and tasting. But here at Kimmel Orchards, we were a little turned off by “Concord Grape Wine.” Al’s uncle made “wine” once by adding yeast to concord grape juice. It was the nastiest thing we’ve ever had. Well, Al ever had, I refused to drink it—there was stuff floating in it. So, we passed on wine and bought some apple cider instead.
Next, we were on to Arbor Day Farms. The last weekend in September and the first few weekends in October are part of their “Living History” celebration. They have a cider press demonstration so we got to see how labor-intensive it was to make apple cider way back when, and they had craft and skill demonstrations—such as quilting, spinning, basket making, lace making, knife making—in the mansion.
pic from website
The mansion is the home of J. Sterling and Catherine Morton. Sterling created Arbor Day while he was president of the State Board of Agriculture. He held many offices in his political career, ultimately being Secretary of Agriculture under Grover Cleveland. There were several photos of Cleveland’s cabinet around the house. The house started out as a 4-room cabin, but when their son, Joy (he started the Morton Salt Company by the way), inherited the house, he spent years expanding and renovating it to the 52 rooms it has today, including a single bowling lane in the basement.
Arbor Day Farms is across the street. It’s an education and conservation center with hiking trails, a 50-ft tree house, a greenhouse, and demonstrations. The activities are great for families, and it was crowded by the afternoon. We decided we had had enough education for the day and headed home.
As we were heading back, we drove through downtown Plattsmouth, with plans to eat a late lunch. Unfortunately, nothing was open. It was eerily quite as we drove down the main street and there were abortion protestors holding signs, standing at the main intersection. It seemed a little odd for them to be there considering that everything was closed. We were the only car on the road. Just eerie.
But, it was a fun day of exploring, and I’ve already scouted out the next orchards I want to go visit. Here's some more photos of the day.