Es ist endlich Spargelzeit!

Yesterday, we did something new…we went to Eckert’s and picked asparagus!

I was really curious about this whole process. I had no idea how asparagus grew (I figured either in single stems like grass, or in bunches like celery…they grow singly). I also had no idea how you harvest them…do you cut them, or just pull them out of the ground? (They give you a flat spade-like tool with a straight edge that you angle next to the asparagus, and then give it a push through).

It ended up being a beautiful day to be out at the farm…we had a break in the weather, it wasn’t even that muddy, and we really enjoyed the tractor ride (plus our driver was really, really nice!).

I’m so glad we got to have this new experience, and I’m really looking forward to enjoying the, um, fruits of our labor, if you will, when we have our first-ever Markel Family Spargelparty…stay tuned for details!

An American Icon

We’ve seen the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile three times now (today it was at Eckert’s), and based on their license plates, it has been a different vehicle each time!

Pumpkin Picking 2016

Today after Moose was done with school, we headed out to the most sincere pumpkin patch in Belleville to search for our “Great Pumpkin.” This is a little earlier than we usually go, but the weather today was perfect (and Eckert’s was offering 50% off on pick-your-own pumpkins), so I figured there was no time like the present!


It’s always fun to see the children rush off in search of the perfect pumpkin. Especially Chickadee, who still can’t lift most of them off the ground! It’s also fun seeing how seriously Turkey takes the search…he puts more thought into what the pumpkin should look like than any of his siblings!


After much searching, finding, replacing, and arguing, everyone had their idea of the perfect pumpkin. In the end, we only took one home (I decided a few years ago that buying 80-plus pounds of pumpkins every year was a bit much), but we certainly had a good selection from which to choose! Our prized pumpkin weighed in at just over 15 pounds (if you’re wondering which one we brought home, it’s the one in the picture with Ladybug).



We spent some time admiring all the fall decorations in the store while we were there:

This was the nicest day for pumpkin picking I can remember, and we had a great time at Eckert’s!


Apple Picking 2016

Since Moose had a half-day of school today, and it wasn’t too terribly hot, we decided to go apple picking at Eckert’s.


The wagon ride to the orchard was fun. Picking apples was…not. We were told that due to the extreme heat and excess rain this summer, many of the apples were blemished, so we should look them over carefully before picking. This may have been an understatement. We discovered many apples rotting on the trees…even ones that looked good from the front would be completely rotten in back. The whole orchard smelled like bad wine, I assume from all of the rotting fruit on both the ground and the trees. We picked only about 13 pounds before we gave up (that may sound like a lot, but when you have five children, they disappear quickly!). It was a good lesson in the many obstacles that farmers have to overcome, though!

After our less than successful trip to the orchard, we visited the play area. The children always want to have their picture taken in the big apple!


They also played some miniature golf and visited the goats and zebu. The animals always make us laugh!

Of course we had to visit the country store, and buy some apple cider!


This wasn’t our best trip to pick apples, but at least it put us in a fall kind of mood!


Peach Picking

It’s been a few years since we’ve been peach picking at Eckert’s, and we almost didn’t go yesterday because it was raining. It was a light rain, though, and I decided we better just go, otherwise we might miss out on peaches for another year. It turned out to be a nice visit in spite of the rain, and it didn’t even take us that long to pick 20 pounds of peaches!



Picking peaches was fun, but we’re already looking forward to picking apples at Eckert’s later this month!

Tasty Tuesday–Blackberry Smoothies

I love blackberry season at Eckert’s! They are by far my favorite fruit to pick…and eat! I’m always looking for new recipes to try with our bounty, and this time, the children really wanted me to make smoothies. I had fun putting this recipe together…I think the nutmeg makes it extra special. The following recipe makes about 3-4 servings, so I had to double it for our family. You could also easily halve it if you only want to serve two!


  • 2 cups fresh blackberries (frozen would work, too)
  • 16 oz. vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar (more or less depending on how tart your berries are)
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Serve immediately.

Blackberry Picking 2016

Today was one of my favorite days of the summer…we went blackberry picking at Eckert’s!




We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day, especially after the heat last week. But I think that same heat was good for the blackberries, because they looked beautiful, and we picked two boxes full!

The Top Five–Photos of 2015

I have been working hard on improving my skills as a photographer this year, mainly using our Canon EOS Rebel T2i DSLR, and I’m pretty pleased with the results. There were five photos taken with that camera that really stood out at me, starting with this view of the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden covered in snow in March:


This water-lily, also photographed in the Japanese Garden, is the best picture I’ve ever taken:


I also love this picture of Bunny at Eckert’s pumpkin patch:


And the gorgeous fall color in Forest Park:


This picture of Chickadee at the Belleville Christkindlmarkt definitely captures her personality!


And because I can never leave a “Top Five” list at just five, here are my favorite photos taken on my iPhone 6, starting with a selfie I took on January 2, after I finally got the courage to dye my hair a wild color(s):

IMG_1790 (1)

The tulips blooming in Forest Park in April were beautiful!


And my favorite picture from our vacation to Charleston:


Another shot in Forest Park, this time of the Apotheosis of St. Louis, complete with a halo:


And one more from the Missouri Botanical Garden, this time from the Garden Glow in November:


I’ve learned how to use different settings on our main camera, and I’ve learned when it’s better to use my iPhone to get the shot I want. My goal for the coming year is learn more about aperture and exposure, and hopefully next year, I’ll have even better photos to share!

Apple Picking 2015

Since Moose had the day off school today, and because it’s Fuji apple season, it seemed like the perfect morning to go to Eckert’s to pick some apples!

First things first, though…some pumpkin pictures outside the Country Store. You can tell when it’s fall in St. Louis, when you see the children in their Cardinals apparel with pumpkins as a backdrop!



We were on the first wagon of the morning out to the orchard, and we got right down to business:

I’m not sure anyone enjoyed it more than Chickadee…I’ve never seen her eat an apple so quickly!

An apple orchard is a beautiful place to be!




We walked around the Garden Center, where we saw this amazing Cardinals Christmas tree:


We also walked through the Country Store, where we got to watch apple cider donuts being made. Of course we had to buy some (they were even still warm!), to go with the gallon of cider we were purchasing!


It was sprinkling a bit, but we still had to visit the Fun Corral, because climbing in the big apple is an important part of my children’s apple-picking experience:


We also stopped to see the animals. These goats were very excited to see us…they all came running as soon as one of them spotted us! I think they were a bit disappointed that we didn’t have any food, though!


Eckert’s has been part of our family traditions for so long, I almost can’t remember a time we weren’t visiting, and we’re always planning our next trip out to the farm!