The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Ripe pickings

    Nicole Robinson

    Every year in Wisconsin when summer fades into fall, certain things are inevitable. The maples leaves transform from green to brilliant hues of yellow and red. By 8 p.m., sunlight dims out of the sky., and the branches of the apple trees will be heavy with fruit, ready to be picked.

    Hillveiw Farm Orchard
    11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday
    Wagon rides: 1 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday
    Pick-your-own: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

    Eau Claire is no exception, with multiple orchards hitting the peak of their seasons in this and the coming weeks. Wisconsin’s many varieties of apples are out in full form; Cortlands, Redcorts, Harrelsons, Empires, McIntoshes and Spartans speckle the trees. For students looking for a juicy Honeycrisp to sink their teeth into, or a Connell Red to bake with, the Hillview Farm orchard, E6198 Hickory Road, owned by Betty and Jerry Harper is worth considering.

    The Harpers planted their first apple trees in 1988, which Betty Harper said, became part of looking ahead.

    “We already had the land, and we thought an orchard could be productive after we retired,” she said.

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    Indeed it has been productive, enough to warrant changing the varieties offered from year-to-year based on customer preference, Betty Harper said.

    “If a specific variety isn’t very popular, we’ll take it out and replace it with something more people are getting,” she said.

    What type of apple people get depends on what purpose they’re using them for.

    Honeycrisp are always excellent for eating straight, while varieties such as Redcort and Connell Red work well for cooking. Betty Harper lists Harrelson as another popular choice. “They’re tart, and a lot of people like that.”

    Just a short and scenic drive south from Oakwood Mall, Hillview offers six acres of pick-your-own apples in almost all of the local varieties, along with horse-drawn wagon rides, a nature trail and all of the edibles and d‚cor expected from a well-stocked orchard.

    The entrance to Hillview is marked by a small “apple house,” where you can purchase cider, jellies, caramel apples, pumpkins and various seasonal decorations. Pre-picked apples also are available for sale. The orchard itself, where patrons can pick their own apples, is located about a half mile from this entrance.

    There are three ways to get to the orchard – a nature trail, a horse-drawn wagon and an alternate road. The nature trail is about a half-mile long and winds up the hill from which the orchard gets its name. For $2.50, patrons can take a ride on a wagon pulled by a pair of Belgian horses to the orchard (children 2 and under are free).

    Driving to the orchard is another option for those who pefer it.

    With the days shortening, the temperature dropping and Parent’s Weekend fast approaching, orchards such as Hillview should hit their prime in the next few weekends. Betty Harper said the second weekend in October is usually the busiest time of year for the Harpers’ orchard, drawing everyone from young children to senior citizens to UW-Eau Claire students.

    Senior Jessica Church was enjoying the nature trail with her dad and her sister.

    “Even if you don’t get apples, it’s worth considering,” Church said. “It’s just a fall thing to do.”

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