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Picking a perfect day at Hurd Orchards

HOLLEY -- Ever wish you could capture summer in a bottle and uncork it, say mid-February?

While the warm morning sun, a lake breeze or a vase of sunflowers might be a stretch, luscious black cherries, juicy plums and the like are possible if you take a One-Tank Trip to Hurd Orchards Farm & Market.

A visit here is about getting back to the land. It's a journey to slow you down for a day and collect some memories. Spend it with friends or family meandering the fields and harvesting something good to eat. Bring the kids for an adventure to discover where food comes from, and the satisfaction of enjoying the fruits of their labor! The Hurd Orchard family is ready to share their love of farming with guests who make the trip.

>Pick your own

Set out with a plan. Maybe pick some black raspberries to freeze for your Christmas cheesecake, or harvest some peaches for canning (hey, why not?), then head to Hurd's Market, where you're likely to run into Sue Machamer, a bright, friendly woman who will tell you about the farm (family-owned for about 200 years) she runs with her daughter, Amy.

The season at Hurd's spans from May through December with the main harvests during the summer and fall months (see Picking Schedule). It's as simple as bringing your own baskets or containers, although Hurd's can supply them. Most items are priced by the pound. A "Pick Your Own Incentive Program" spans the season -- pick at least four quarts of each of eight different fruits and you can choose two jars of Hurd jelly, jam or vinegar to take home.

On a May visit, asparagus was $2.75 a pound (you pick), or $3 otherwise. A mother and her two children arrived to pick some rhubarb. Sue welcomed these regulars with a "happy spring" and directed them to the patch, along with a tip about the friendly "deer dogs" that might need "shooing off the plants" if they were in them.

While there are no formal gardens, there is plenty around the market to see, like a cherry orchard, perennial plants, a new herb garden and the fantastic 200-year-old barn the family moved and raised in its current location. Sue says paths are mowed in the summer so folks can explore the land. The barn is used to host theme lunches (more on that later) and private functions.

Once you arrive and check in at the stand, you may have a small drive to a different location, as the fields are spread out to accommodate the many items Hurd's grows. After you pick, return to have them weighed, pay and then shop the adorable market.

The shelves of the market stand are lined with Hurd jams, jellies, preserves and gift items, like linens, candles and soaps. Hanging above is a gorgeous canopy of dried flowers that come from the 20 acres the farm dedicates to growing them.

The preserved items are glorious, and all done at the market. While making your own is noble, there's no shame in purchasing some of these fantastic items, especially ones you might not attempt, like wild grape, quince or rosehip jelly.

The flavor combinations will have your brain swimming. Cherry marmalade would be great on toast, but how about on duck breast? A rosy rhubarb sauce would be just as good basting chicken as it would on ice cream. And why serve store-bought applesauce at your next pork chop dinner when you can impress with raspberry applesauce or even something as decadent as cinnamon rum peach preserves. For the lazy cook, there are jars of raspberry, apple or plum pie filling.

Herbs get into the act too, with items like purple basil or oregano jelly, and even apple mint jelly (rack of lamb anyone?). Herbs (lemon thyme, pepper parsley and fennel) also flavor bottles of vinegar.

Scattered as you shop are free recipe cards that incorporate Hurd products, like an orange cheesecake with Hurd's Champagne Peach Sauce. For an impromptu picnic, purchase some jam, homemade bread (cookies or even a mini pie) and go to town!

If you need a special gift for someone, choose from what they've put together like "A Farmer's Breakfast" with strawberry rhubarb and strawberry cherry preserves, harvest applesauce, honey and maple syrup for $75. Or make your own gift combination (even more fun). Depending on the recipient, you could include cookbooks, teas, maybe a china teacup or some of the brandied fruit cordials, like summer berry. There's lots to choose from.

Be sure to grab the farm newsletter at the stand, which includes a history of the farm, a horticulture almanac and a calendar of events.

>Lunches and events

If you decide to play hooky from work this summer, an event at Hurd's would be perfect. From May through December, the farm hosts theme luncheons and events that range from food-centered, like a "Peaches & Cream Luncheon" or classes such as the "Rose Garden Wreath" workshop.

There are special events too, including a Midsummer's Night's Tasting, a Christmas Tea or the Thanksgiving Tasting, which Sue Machamer says is attended by folks as far away as San Francisco and Baltimore.

Many events are held in the rustic setting of the barn. On my visit, they were preparing for a wedding. Even a day away, it was already shaping up to be something out of a magazine photo shoot with huge bouquets of homegrown flowers overflowing the vases. The menu included homegrown asparagus crepes and marinated salmon with Hurd rhubarb sauce.

Throughout the year, there are special children's programs, like Little Farmers Children's Day, Anne of Green Gables Day and Little House on the Farm Day, when the kids are loaded up on the antique truck for a trip to the blueberry patch.

Whatever your reason to visit Hurd's, make it a "must do" on your summer calendar, as a little time on the farm might be just the tonic to counter your busy schedule.

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If you go

Prices vary according to event, and must be prepaid (nonrefundable) when making a reservation. For information, visit www.hurdorchards.com or call (585) 638-8838.

Market hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday in May, June, September, October, November and December; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in July and August.

*Stops along the way:

The Mill antique store on Route 98 is open noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Watt Farms, Route 98. This is another "You Pick" farm. Although it's not as charming as Hurd's, they do have ice cream, homemade fudge, a playground and animals for kids to see. Hours: 10 a.m. to dusk Sunday-Friday; 9 a.m. to dusk on Saturdays. Visit online www.wattsfarms.com or call (800) 274-5897, for information about the Watt's Orchard Express train ride.

Barn Sale, a roadside antique place on Route 104 on the right side, before Hurd's. Open noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

*Pick Your Own schedule:

Dates are approximate. Call ahead for exact picking dates.

Asparagus: May through mid-June;

Strawberries: mid- to late-June;

Sweet cherries: July 4-Aug. 1;

Sour cherries, July 15-Aug. 10

Blueberries, July 4-Sept. 1;

Red raspberries, July 5-Oct. 10;

Black raspberries, early July;

Currants (red, white and black), July 5-Aug. 5;

Peaches (yellow and white), mid-July to early September;

Blackberries: August;

Plums: late August and September;

Apples: Sept. 1 through Nov. 1;

Pumpkins: October

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Directions

Take the NY State Thruway east;

Exit at Batavia (48);

Turn right on Route 98 North; follow to Route 104 (Ridge Road East) and go right. The market is up about 8 miles on the left.

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