Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Walnut Creek’

Find a Taste of Fall at Hillcrest Orchard of Walnut Creek

Hillcrest applesSurely the apple is the noblest of fruits.

~Henry David Thoreau~

Apple cider becomes a favorite drink during autumn, and apples are ranked number one in the top ten healthiest foods. So harvest time felt perfect for a trip to Hillcrest Orchard of Walnut Creek to get fresh apples and cider. Rain or shine, this is a bustling place in the fall.

Hillcrest front

   With over 20,000 bushels of apples this year, they have over twenty varieties from which to choose. Two customer favorites are Golden Delicious and Honey Crisp, my personal choice. Their newest variety is now available – Evercrisp, a combination of Honey Crisp and Fuji.

   Hillcrest Orchard has been in the family since 1968. Today Merle and Lela Hershberger own and operate the orchard with help from their children. Their grandfather, Jacob Hershberger, still helps out as often as possible.

Hillcrest view from overlook

An overview features their orchard and beautiful Mud Valley.

   With over 75 acres of apple trees and 5 acres of peach trees, the Hershberger family works all year round. When the new year begins in January, it’s time to trim trees and remove a block of old trees.

   Then in April, it’s planting time each year for approximately 4,000 dwarf trees – most of them being apple. Luckily, they have a tree transplanter, which is pulled behind a tractor. They can sit on the transplanter and drop in the new trees three feet apart. With this method, they can plant over 1,500 trees in one day.

   There’s always work to be done. After planting trees, the trunks are hand wrapped with wire to keep them straight. Trellises, holding two wires that go through the trees, keep the branches from hanging to the ground. During the summer months, the apples need to be thinned on each tree. An apple tree cannot be too full of apples for best production.

Hillcrest Apple sorter

Matt Hershberger often runs the apple sorter.

   In the fall when picking begins, some extra help is needed from young people in the community. All the apples are hand-picked from ladders. That is one of the reasons they switched to dwarf apple trees so they could more easily be reached.

Hillcrest Cidermill

Mark Hershberger and his son, Adam, explain the cider press.

   Fresh pressed apple cider is made at their business operation every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. During October they make 4,000 gallons each week. One Friday/Saturday last year they sold 2,250 gallons.

Hillcrest Sample

A free sample of fresh apple cider tasted refreshing.

   Their cider is unpasteurized so it’s placed immediately in a cooling tank. That also means that it’s only good for about two weeks. Be sure to get a free sample while visiting.

Hillcrest Vinegar

There are many uses for apple cider vinegar.

   Whatever cider isn’t sold is placed into wooden barrels for one year. There it becomes apple cider vinegar, which is also available at their store.

Hillcrest Apple butter

Their fresh apple butter was a popular item.

   However, apples and their products aren’t the only things on hand. Hillcrest Orchard’s the perfect place to find organic fruits and vegetables while in season. Their products look picture perfect. You can also buy pumpkins, mums, baled hay or straw. You’ll be surprised at all the treats available.

Hillcrest Kettle Corn

In the parking lot, Hostetler Kettle Corn provides an extra treat.

   Outside during the fall months, you’ll enjoy the flavor of Hostetler Kettle Corn. Freshly popped in the lot, the smell draws you to their tent. Pick up a bag to munch on while driving home through beautiful Amish country.

   The children and grandchildren feel part of the business as they have grown up in the orchard and store. Hopefully, those youngsters will someday continue providing apples and peaches for all to enjoy.

Hillcrest Welcome

Bags of fresh apples greet you – The First Taste of Fall.

   Merle’s son, Mark, lists pressing cider and picking apples as his favorite chores. When asked what he’d like to do in the future, his answer, “Plant more trees.” What do these hard-working young men like to do for fun? Deer hunt! There’s evidence of that around their store with several deer head mounts.

Hillcrest Cider Sign   Hillcrest Orchard is open from July through April. It has even become a requested stop for tour buses. Many people make an annual visit there in the fall and some stop by often to pick up fresh produce. One man said he took the cider home and froze it in small containers so he could have fresh tasting cider for months to come.

Hillcrest Check out

Area young people help out during their busiest season – September and October.

   Stop by the orchard and pick up some apples straight from the tree. Apples can be enjoyed in so many different ways: apple pie, applesauce, apple butter, apple crisp, dipped in caramel, or just take a bite of a fresh, juicy one. However you decide to use the apples, they will taste delicious.

   Remember, apples are also healthy, so that old adage of ‘an apple a day’ is a good rule to follow. Stop at Hillcrest Orchard of Walnut Creek on your next trip to Amish Country and experience the fresh taste of fall.

Hillcrest Orchard of Walnut Creek can be reached off I-77 at Exit 83. Go left on OH 39W until you reach 515. Turn right at the light, then go straight back about a half mile to the Orchard on the right. 

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Life on The Farm at Walnut Creek

View at The Farm at Walnut Creek

View of The Farm at Walnut Creek

Colorful Macaw watches over activities.

Colorful Macaw watches over activities.

Did you ever want something to eat out of the palm of your hand? Visit The Farm at Walnut Creek where many animals rush for the feed in your extended palm..

This beautiful Amish farm, set in the rolling hills of Holmes County, makes a great place to spend the day. Everything here moves at a much slower pace – even farm work. This is definitely a working farm where you can see various chores being done, depending on the season of the year: plowing, thrashing, canning or quilting to name a few.

Tour inside an authentic, non-electric, Amish farmhouse where you might be lucky enough to get a freshly baked cookie. Check out several barns, observe a blacksmith at work in his shop, and admire their beautiful flower gardens. A covered bridge creates a perfect setting for relaxation at a small pond surrounded by plants and flowers.

Luke and mother, Libery in the Giraffe Pen.

Luke and mother, Libery, in the Giraffe Pen.

But children and the young at heart come mainly to feed the farm’s 500 animals from six different continents. While everyone expects to see sheep, goats and cattle, a surprised look crosses their face when a Dromedary camel, giraffe or Grevy zebra appears.

Two options exist for viewing the animals: by car or on a horse-drawn wagon pulled by beautiful Percheron draft horses. Try both for the best experience. By car, feeding seems a little safer since you can gently put up the car window if they try to stick their head inside the car…and they definitely will! Speed limit for cars is 5 mph to protect animals and passengers.

Grevy Zebra and pony

Grevy Zebra and colt

The most fun of the day occurs on the hour-long wagon ride where each person is given a filled feed bucket for the animals. At least three horse-drawn wagons headed out each hour…and this visit happened on a Monday. The driver tells stories about the animals, as the horses trot slowly down the lane.

Stops to watch the zebras and giraffes top the tour. Everyone has to be careful of the zebras as they might bite, so pour their food onto the ground. Mother zebra keeps a close eye on her two-week old colt. The picture of this zebra pair was taken through my windshield on the car tour. They wouldn’t get off the road!

Even though the giraffes are inside a high fence, they easily reach over to eat out of your hand. Here a special treat was mother giraffe, Liberty, and her five-day old calf, Luke.

Big Bad John is always hungry.

Big Bad John is always hungry.

The Farm at Walnut Creek is truly where the deer and the antelope play, along with many other domestic and exotic animals. Feeding Big Bad John, a horned steer, requires caution, due to his long tongue reaching out for feed and his horns swinging from side to side. Everyone from child to adult enjoys feeding the animals and wishes the ride could last a little longer.

Noah's Ark Playground

Noah’s Ark Playground

At the end of this great family outing, spread out a picnic near the lake. A Noah’s Ark playground seems the perfect play area for a day filled with animals. Take the plank up to the top of the ark, then come down one of several slides. Nearby is a sandy volleyball court.

The Farm at Walnut Creek provides fun activities all year long. During the Fall Festival, you might try their famous pumpkin slingshot, or watch the Percherons press sorghum cane stalks into molasses. If you are lucky to have your winter trip fall on a day when the lanes are covered with a couple inches of snow, then you’ll be able to have a horse-drawn sleigh ride. The excitement continues all year long!

The road to The Farm at Walnut Creek is a pleasant drive. Take I-77 to Exit 93, which will be SR 39. Turn left on SR 39 and go approximately 14 miles to a left turn on Co Hwy. 114. Signs are posted so watch carefully.

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