Cider Doughnuts and Apple Picking at Sunset Orchard Farms

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We have no shortage of great orchards for apple picking in Rhode Island, and over the years, we’ve visited Jaswell’s, Knight Farm, Sweet Berry Farm and Hill Orchard. This year, we all had our requirements — Geoff wanted cider doughnuts, I wanted it to be in ‘apple valley’ (near Smithfield), and the girls wanted some kind of ride.

So we agreed on Sunset Orchards, where there was a small train ride and tractor ride through the orchards, as well as fresh cider doughnuts, unpasteurized cider, and plenty of apple varieties to pick from (including macintosh and empire apples, my two favorites).

We were a bit surprised how bustling it was there (clearly, we hadn’t ‘discovered’ this place), but once you got out into the orchard, it felt more lowkey. Despite the 18 pounds of apples we bought, not one apple went to waste. And the resulting pie Geoff made, well, I guess that had at least something to do with the apples.

Sunset Orchard Farms
44 Gleaner Chapel Road
North Scituate, RI

Coastal Growers’ Market in South County


Music at the market…

Guest post by Nancy Caronia, a Lecturer in the Honors Program at University of Rhode Island. Check out her blog at


From the bounty of the market: fresh fennel.

I’m from Brooklyn, NY, but I lived in Central New York for ten years. In New York City, I would frequent the Union Square Market, and in Central New York, I happily shopped at the Rochester Public Market. I love farmers, I love the food they grow, and I love supporting them and eating their food.

That’s why I appreciate the Coastal Growers Market near my current home in South County, Rhode Island. The four-season farmers market is like both of these markets, but actually reminds me more of the market when I lived in Cassis, France during a semester long writing fellowship with The Camargo Foundation. The vendors in the open-air market would teach me French and I would bring home the loaves of hot olive bread, fresh greens, rabbit, olives, cheese and fresh eggs. Each vendor was kind, whether I was buying two heads of lettuce or a bouquet of mimosa that was large enough to make me feel like a beauty pageant winner. They were patient and funny as I made a mockery of the French language. At the market, I met the people with whom I would soon be hiking buddies and purchased ingredients that meant I made excellent meals without ever stepping foot into a supermarket.


A customer browses at the Zephyr Farm stand.

The Coastal Growers’ Market takes me back to the market in Cassis. The farmers and vendors are kind, patient, and caring—towards their customers and about the food and products they provide. In the summer, when the market is located at Casey Farm, I meet up with friends and we sit all morning on picnic benches and listen to music by different local bands each Saturday morning while drinking iced tea or a cold-pressed iced coffee from The Coffee Guy and eat the most amazing tacos in New England by Chef Jake Rojas of Tallulah’s Tacos.

In the winter, the market moves indoors to Lafayette Mill and we still listen to great music and drink—only it’s more likely to be an apple cider that’s been freshly pressed by Barden Family Orchard or a juice from Fully Rooted. There’s Seven Stars for croissants and fresh crusty bread and Bravo Wood Fire Pizza. We meet up with our farmers and buy our groceries for the week as well. I get my greens from Mark, the hydroponic farmer of Abasaloma Greenhouse. I buy my fresh eggs from Zephyr Farm. And I indulge in nitrate-free bacon from Pat’s Pasteurized, where I’ve gotten to know Deb and Annie, aka Santa’s Elves, who do service work feeding the homeless throughout the year.

I get my fresh seafood from The Local Catch and Matunuck Oyster Farm, where the young children love to hear Gabe’s stories about bivalves and watch as he opens an oyster just to watch their eyes light up in delight. There’s also Yorerganics where I purchase my laundry soapbuds and Susannah of Susannah’s Ice Cream and Sorbet, who makes the best darn Meyer lemon sorbet no matter what the season.

Coastal Growers’ Market has made my transition to Rhode Island simple. I’ve made new friends and I’ve become part of a community of people who care about food and healthy living. If you need holiday gifts, the market is the perfect stop. And if you just want to meet up with terrific people and have a relaxing Saturday morning, the market folks will greet you with open arms.

Coastal Growers’ Market
Lafayette Mill
650 Ten Rod Road
North Kingstown, RI
Every Saturday from 10am to 1pm until May 2, 2015

Slater Memorial Park: Fishing, Swan Boats, Carousel, Playground

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Our six-year-old has been asking to go fishing since last summer, and this weekend we finally got around to it. As it turns out, Rhode Island has several waters stocked with trout exclusively for children ages 14 and under.  However, for this trip, we headed out to Slater Memorial Park in Pawtucket.

The trip began with a stop at Benny’s — Rhode Island’s answer to Wal-Mart, Benny’s is a small store that often has exactly what you’re looking for (fishing poles, kid’s bikes, school supplies, large storage bins, automotive supplies, gardening equipment and seeds, etc.) There, Geoff bought two fishing poles and some fake bait. The next stop was the R.I. Aquarium and Pet Center for some lively worms.

The reaction shot after catching the fish.

The reaction shot after catching the fish.

We then staked out our spot along the pond at Slater Memorial Park. The first few hours involved our repeatedly twisting the fishing line, twice catching our hook in some tree branches, and reeling in our line repeatedly to discover the fish had once again taken the bait and escaped unhooked. Our two-year-old seemed to think we were simply feeding the fish and exclaimed excitedly each time the hook came back from the pond emptied. Perhaps that’s what made it so surprising when we got pull on her rod and reeled in an actual bass. You can see by the photo how enthusiastically she posed with her fish.

Even without such success, it would have been a great day at the park — we also took a swan boat ride (a bit pricey at $5/person), several carousel rides (only 25 cents each), and found a large playground. The park also contains a children’s zoo at Daggett Farm, a gallery within the Rhode Island Watercolor Society, and a seafood restaurant, not to mention tennis courts, baseball fields and a bike trail. Apparently, we’ll need more than a day to complete our exploration.

Slater Memorial Park
Pawtucket, RI

RI Trout-Stocked Waters for Children 14 and under:

  • Frosty Hollow Pond in Exeter
  • Geneva Brook & Pond in North Providence
  • Lapham Pond in Burrillville
  • Lloyd Kenney Pond in Hopkinton
  • Seidel’s Pond in Cranston
  • Silvy’s Pond in Cumberland

More information at


RI Aquarium & Pet Center
905 North Main Street
Providence, RI
(401) 415-0455‎

RI Fishing Licenses (Note: children do not need licenses)

Apple Picking and Brunch at Knight Farm

Enjoying an apple straight off the tree.

Each year we try to find a new farm for apple picking in addition to our old favorites. In past years, we’ve discovered Jaswell’s Farm, Hill Orchards, and Sweet Berry Farm. This year, we decided to try Knight Farm, founded in 1800.

Although many farms have stands or shops (Jaswell’s and Sweet Berry Farms are my favorites), few have restaurants. When we arrived this morning, it was clear this was a popular place for brunch and with good reason. It’s certainly nothing fancy, but they serve simple comfort food in a charming and rustic atmosphere. I ordered an egg sandwich, and I was not disappointed.

Knight’s apple orchards feel relatively compact to some of the others (they have about 40 acres versus Jaswell’s 100 acres), but really how many apple trees do you need? We had no trouble picking our own crisp, tasty apples. Of course, the real work came later — peeling apples, rendering lard (from Pat’s Pastured Pork), rolling the crust, and baking the pie. Not that I did any of that. But I did eat a piece of the resulting pie, and it was delicious.

Knight Farm and Restaurant
1 Snake Hill Road
North Scituate, RI

Also see Farm Fresh RI’s Pick Your Own Guide near Providence.

Hill Orchards: Pick Your Own Apples, Peaches and Plums

Lucy makes her pick...

In our few years in Rhode Island, apple picking has become one of our fall traditions. We’ve gone to Jaswell’s Farm, which has a great farm stand and pasteurizes their own cider, and Sweet Berry Farm, which I love for their café/farm stand (their pumpkin muffins are addictive). This year, to try something new (and because we heard they still had peaches), we headed to Hill Orchards in Johnston, RI.

At most orchards, they discourage you from sampling the fruit, but at Hill they invited us to try before you buy. And sure enough, they still had peaches and plums in addition to plenty of apples — although not all of them ripe quite yet. This weekend, they recommended picking the macintosh, cortland, gala and macoun, although we also found some ripe golden delicious.

There do have a bare bones “farm stand,” which consists of a folding table where you can buy some cider and pumpkins in a variety of sizes (we got both). And they also offer horse-drawn carriage rides around the farm — we passed on the ride, although Madeline insisted on petting the horses.

As usual, we left with enough fruit to make several pies, except this time, we’ll have to add peach pie to our to do list.

Hill Orchards
86 Winsor Avenue
Johnston, RI

For other suggestions on where to “pick your own,” visit Farm Fresh RI.

Apple Picking at Jaswell’s Farm

A shiny apple picked from the tree

Madeline proudly displays her conquest.

There’s nothing quite like biting an apple taken directly from the tree — so crisp, a little bit tart, and absolutely delicious.  On the advice of a friend, we decided to drive to Smithfield’s “Apple Valley” to Jaswell’s Farm. A fourth generation family farm, they have acres of apple trees you can wander through to fill up bags of apples for $1.50 per pound. Right now, cortland and macintosh apples were ripe for the picking. They also have a field to pick-your-own pumpkins and another to pick flowers. Jaswell’s is famous for their handmade candy apples and their fresh cider which is milled and pasteurized on the premises. Their daily farm stand offers a selection of locally grown and homemade baked goods, jams and produce.

Madeline loved hunting among the low branches to find the reddest apples. Needless to say, we came home with three big bags filled with 17 pounds of apples. Now, someone needs to bake some pies…

Jaswell’s Farm
pick-your-own apples and pumpkins continues through most of October
50 Swan Rd
Smithfield, RI

Coggeshall Farm: Breakfast in the Barnyard

Breakfast on the fire consists of jonnycakes made with molasses and farm fresh milk.

It may seem absurd to wake your kid up early on a Saturday morning for morning chores, but we did exactly that this past weekend in order to visit Coggeshall Farm for their Breakfast in the Barnyard program.

Starting at 8 am, our Early American costumed hosts selected volunteers to carry a basket of corn husks, a container for milking and and a basket for vegetables.  We then headed to the garden to collect some rotted vegetables to feed the swine (unnamed, but you can call her bacon).  We watched the cow get milked, met her new calf (which the cow seemed a bit touchy about), let the sheep out to graze, saw a chicken find food for her baby chicks, and brushed the cattle. And all the while, we learned about customs of the late 1700s and life on a heritage farm.

A calf drinks from its mother while the sheep graze on the field at Coggeshall Farm.

We then headed into the original 18th century farmhouse to wash up and sit down for a breakfast of old-fashioned jonnycakes, some fruit and apple cider.

It certainly was the best time I ever had doing chores, and Madeline loved it even if she did spend most of the time there wearing her pajamas.

Coggeshall Farm Museum
Breakfast in the Barnyard takes place Saturdays August 21, 28 and September 4, 11, and 25
Poppasquash Road
Bristol, RI 02809
(401) 253-9062

The Steel Yard’s Iron Pour

Providence Steel Yard Iron Pour

A giant jack-o-lantern blazes at the Steel Yard's Annual Iron Pour.

Sometimes I wonder how Geoff hears about these things.  With little prior warning or details, we drove out the other night to The Steel Yard to witness their annual Iron Pour.  We arrived a bit after the ‘performance’ had begun, and there was already a significant crowd (of taller people) blocking the view to the action.  We literally couldn’t see anything.  We imagined something fascinating happening since every so often we would hear a collective ahh and see sparks fly out from the center of The Steel Yard.

Madeline happily viewed the show from Geoff’s shoulders.  However, I was most definitely not happy.  All I could see was the backs of people’s heads, and smoke from the fires our blew into our faces.  Upon complaining loudly, a neighboring observer (if you could call him that since he couldn’t see anything either) told us that the crowd had doubled from last year.  The bleachers, which were full, had been brought in this morning in anticipation of a larger crowd.  Yet it still struck me as so odd how so many people remained attentively facing the center although they couldn’t see a darn thing.  Not me.  I was ready to go.

Iron Pour

Stoking the fire at the annual Iron Pour.

On our way out, we happened to find less obstructed, if more distant, view of the Iron Pour.  From here we could see the iron workers stoking the fires of the furnaces, and the blazing Jack-O-Lantern.  When they would pour the molten metal, sparks scattered across the yard.  We lingered a bit longer to watch.  Madeline truly loved the display, so much so that she started to protest loudly when we announced we were leaving.  It’s a good thing there was a man making balloon pumpkins — it made the perfect parting gift.

The Steel Yard
Their 5,612 square foot industrial shop is a multi-use venue featuring studios where artists craft ceramics, glass and jewelry, as well as shops for welding, metal working and blacksmithing.  Classes are offered on the premises.
27 Sims Avenue
Providence, RI

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo.

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo.

I usually take issue with things named spectacular, but I have to admit in the case of the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, the name fits.  The sheer number of pumpkins sacrificed to the cause of creating this glowing presentation is extraordinary.  You’ll pass hundreds of hand-carved unique faces along the winding path and see the hundreds more lit lanterns shimmering in the trees and across the ponds.

Each evening it starts at 6pm, although sunset comes a bit later.  We arrived at 5:30pm, waited in line, bought our tickets, then meandered near the entrance buying pretzels and drinking coffee.  What we didn’t realize is that there is another queue within the zoo for people to wait until it’s dark enough outside, and there’s plenty of stands (and time) while you’re on that line to buy SuperPretzels (not as deserving of their name).  Despite the line’s seeming to contain the entire population of Rhode Island, once dark descended, it moved fairly well.  And the fiery tribute to one of the prettier traditions of Halloween is truly worth the wait.

Roger Williams Park Zoo
Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular (october 8-November 1, 2009)
Providence, RI

Schartner Farms: Hay Ride, Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.

Over the weekend, we spent a day with our family at Schartner Farms in Exeter, RI.  The farm stand alone is an impressive sight– in autumn, they sell over a dozen crops grown on their 85 acres — beets, apples, peppers, carrots, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, string beans, potatoes and of course, pumpkins.  They also offer fruits, vegetables and flowers from other farms so you can pick up staples like lemons when you need them. From their on-site bakery wafts the smell of their pumpkin, apple, and berry pies which are obviously quite popular judging by the volume they churned out last Sunday.

Heading into the corn maze on Schartner Farms.

Heading into the corn maze on Schartner Farms.

The family fun begins with a hay ride which winds you deeper into the farm along dirt roads.  It drops you off at the ‘pumpkin patch’ where you find an assortment of activities for the kids.  Madeline enjoyed the waist-high mini-maze, but gave up quickly on the the larger corn maze which I continued on alone.  Their maze is based on a quiz  — this year’s theme was insects so the questions centered on the peculiarities of mosquitos, dragonflies, cockroaches and more.  For example, how long can a cockroach survive without it’s head?  The right answer leads you to the correct path.  Let’s just say it took me a little while to get out of there — I apparently don’t know much about insects.

They also have a number of photo ops in addition to their pumpkin patch like their enormous funky scarecrows, Halloween-themed pictures to poke your head through and some larger-than-life cartoonish bugs.  You’ll also find a handful of carnival-like games (guess the number, ball toss).

After you’re done, you take the slightly bumpier hay ride back to the farm entrance and by then you’re certainly ready for a snack (or at least we were).  No need to leave, you can get hot dogs, their custom soft drinks and tasty french fries made on the spot with their own fresh farm potatoes.  For dessert, pick up a slice of one of their pies (we preferred the crispy apple pie to the pumpkin).

French fries freshly made from farm potatoes.

French fries freshly made from farm potatoes.

On your way out, you can pick up a pumpkin (if you hadn’t already at the pumpkin patch).  At their stand, they have all shapes and sizes — tiny ironsides to ones large enough to need two hands and your full attention to carry.  They even have a collection of decorated and painted pumpkins which come with names like “Grumpy Dave” and “Scary Mary.”

Shartner Farms
Route 2 and 1 Arnold Place
Exeter, RI