A garden of earthly delights. [video by Rod J. Eckrich]


Load up on autumn treats at the County Line Orchard

The only time I recall ever having anything to do with an orchard was in kindergarten, and I don't think it was even in Indiana. I wasn't aware an orchard existed in our area, let alone in nearby Hobart, until my cousin Nick gave me a pumpkin doughnut from County Line Orchard a few years ago.

Let me tell you, the pumpkin doughnuts alone make the orchard worth checking out.
County Line in Hobart offers tons of fun-filled activities for people of all ages during September and October. It is also a good way to celebrate the fall season. It’s been open since the late 1980s, and Luke Oil has owned it since the 2006 season.

In 2011 alone, the orchard sold 417,000 pounds of apples, 20,000 gallons of cider,  808,000 doughnuts and 410,000 pounds of pumpkins, according to a sales analysis. Nearly 50,000 students on field trips visited the orchard—and I bet there wasn't a bored kid in the house.

Did you know there are all sorts of different apples such as sundance, golden delicious, keepsake, jubilee, Fuji, Shizuka, melrose, suncrisp, gala and McIntosh? The varieties ripen in their own time, and they serve different needs. Some are better for baking while others are more pleasant to eat. Granny Smith apples are considered the best for raw eating and baking apple pies.

The truth about apple trees in orchards is interesting. Like many people, I bought into the legend of Johnny Appleseed traveling around the country and growing apples via seeds. But the truth is they start off as grafts because they grow better that way.

And here’s an interesting fact about apple seeds: A seed from a suncrisp doesn't necessarily produce other suncrisp apples.

Besides apple picking, there are other attractions at County Line. The barn area is filled with animals that guests can pet and feed, such as rabbits, llamas, miniature donkeys and horses, chickens, small pot-bellied pigs and goats. You might even see some chicks hatching nearby.

Also on deck are two yurts containing two beehives each. But don't be afraid of being stung. The hives are separated by glass and allow visitors to see how bees interact and what the inside of a hive looks like.
There's even a pumpkin-eating dragon named Peter.  The crowd can summon him with chants of "pumpkins." He will awaken for a few moments to interact with the crowd, devour a pumpkin and sing a song.

The highlight at the orchard for me is the corn maze. It’s worth checking out, and it’s a good way to kill time. But don't have a panic attack if you get lost because there are employees in a tower who will help you find the exit if necessary.

The crowds of people at the orchard may be daunting—the place is flooded with guests like an amusement park—but the trip is well worth it. I wound up taking the daughters of some friends there, and everyone had a good time.