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Outhouse Family Still Offers Good Pickings

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Suddenly it is time to strip the apples from the trees and pluck the pumpkins from the vine. In just three weeks, Halloween will be here, giving everybody just a few weeks to order a turkey and peel those apples for a traditional Thanksgiving pie.

Ken Stern grew up in Scarsdale and used to come every fall to pick apples at the Outhouse Orchards . This year he and his wife, Kristin, brought their children all the way from Brooklyn so the kids could enjoy the “Outhouse experience,” just as Stern had.

“We’re going to make apple juice and apple sauce and apple pie and apple muffins,” said six-year-old Cliff Stern. “And we’re going to put a big bowl of apples in the lobby of our building for all our neighbors to enjoy,” his mother added.

A special attraction at the orchard this year was the corn maze. Armed with an aerial map, gamers sought their way through the maze, answering puzzle questions along the way. “It’s a good time,” said Jesse Outhouse. “People come out sweating and smiling.”

Jesse's father Wayne and Wayne's brother Drew are the grandsons of A. J. Outhouse, who founded the apple-picking project. Wayne recalled playing hooky as a second grader and watching as a tour bus from his own school arrived for a visit. “I had to hide behind the oil tank,” he said.

The Outhouse family grew up in the house now known as Primavera Restaurant . They attended the Croton Falls School, now the Schoolhouse Theater. “Our principal was Miss Keffe,” said the brothers. “She was only about four foot ten. Small, but mean. She used to hit us.”

Discussing more contemporary matters, Drew Outhouse explained that most of their apples are Macintoshes and Cortlands. “Macs are for eating, Cortlands are all around apples - pies, applesauce. People use them in Waldorf Salad because they don’t oxidize.”

Drew Outhouse does not do much farming any more. He has worked in various capacities for the Town of North Salem. Still, he says, “My heart was always in apples. To me, it’s a pure way of making a living. I like the winter and the pruning. But it’s tough. Apple growers and farmers are their own worst enemies.”

Columbus Day weekend is the busiest time at the orchard, but the season continues through Halloween. The price for apples is $25 per half-bushel, pumpkins cost 79 cents a pound. An old sign from the 1960s was on display nearby. The price for apples was $4 per half-bushel.

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