Apple picking and sukkot building ideas for the whole family to enjoy

ELYSE PICKER, Special to the Jewish Light

It’s old news by now, but wow, the High Holidays are early this year. With erev Rosh Hashanah colliding with Labor Day and Simchat Torah wrapping up before the month of September ends, I feel like I’ve been flung into fall even though most days it’s still above 80 degrees.

It must not be a coincidence that apples are a traditional Rosh Hashanah food and also in season this time of year. If you didn’t already go apple picking (personally, I like it to be a little cooler out and just couldn’t do it before Rosh Hashanah), then the upcoming holiday of Sukkot, which begins at sundown on Sept. 20th, is a great time for this easy family activity.

September is a great time to enjoy one or more of the many apple orchards surrounding St. Louis. Here are a few favorites:

Braeutigam Orchards (http://www.braeutigamorchards.com/): Located in Belleville, Braeutigam Orchards has been family owned since 1831. They orchards grow 17 different varieties of apples, which are available from as early as June through mid-October. You can take a tractor ride to the orchard or walk, and quickly fill up your bags with a variety of apples. Braeutigam has also become known for its apple cider slushies and apple cider donuts, and has recently expanded the bakery area. In addition to apples, you can come throughout the summer and fall for berries, peaches, pumpkins and a variety of produce. We’ve found this to be our favorite orchard for family-friendly, socially distanced fun.

Thies Farm (https://www.thiesfarm.com/): Located on North Hanley, a short drive from Clayton, University City and Olivette, Thies Farm is the perfect apple picking spot for those who want the experience without the schlep. Pick your own apples begins mid-September, no reservations required. This location also has a great, smaller “PumpkinLand” for families beginning in October.

Herman’s Farm (https://hermansfarm.weebly.com/): A short drive from St. Louis county, Herman’s Farm in St. Charles offers a wide variety of pick your own apples throughout the month of September. This orchard is on the smaller side, making it great for young families. There are also hayrides and a fun play area. Call to make an appointment and for the most current picking conditions.

After you pick all those apples, you’ll need a place to eat them. Sukkot, which means “small huts,” is the harvest holiday where we build temporary structures outside of our homes to recall the Jews wandering in the desert after fleeing Egypt and also the tents used during harvest time in ancient Israel.

Building a sukkah is a fun (easy for me to say, my husband does most of the work with putting ours up) way to celebrate Sukkot as a family. And even if you don’t build your own, it’s just as much a mitzvah to visit someone else’s. And with COVID still influencing our day to day lives, Sukkot is a welcome time to celebrate with friends outside.

If you are building a sukkah this year, you’ll want to make sure to order a lulav(a bundle of three plants grown in Israel — date palm, myrtle, willow) and etrog(the citrus fruit which resembles a large lemon). You can usually order one through any local synagogue, Chabad (Chabad of Chesterfield) or from online shops such as Modern Tribe and Zion Etrogim.

Even if you aren’t building your own sukkah, there are lots of fun ways to get your kids involved in creating their own sukkot at home.

Pillow fort sukkah — this is exactly what it sounds like. Have your children take fort building skills to a new level by creating one that adheres to the most basic rules of building a sukkah: at least three walls and a roof where the sky (or ceiling) is still visible. Since we are meant to invite guests into our sukkah, this is also a great way to bring stuffed animals or dolls into pretend play.

Natural materials sukkah — head outside and collect sticks, leaves, flowers and other natural elements. Then, using playdough or modeling clay to help things stick together, build a sukkah out of the different materials.

Lego or Magna Tile sukkah — using Lego bricks, Magna Tiles or any other building blocks, see what type of creative sukkah your child can create. Be sure to include a table for guests to gather inside, and even a mini lulav and etrog.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year and a wonderful fall!

Elyse Picker is a teacher and former co-director at Kol Rinah Early Childhood Center. She’s lived in St. Louis for just over 10 years, where she and her husband are happy to be raising their three children. 

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