The Pawelk’s sprawling 155-acre farm is anything but a traditional apple orchard. It is the life dream of Rich and Terri, and it shows. They’ve even been voted Best Apple Orchard by the viewers of a Minneapolis television channel.
During the off-season you may see Popcorn the pet chicken strolling along the grass near the coop. Briggs, the big friendly Bernese Mountain Dog, keeps watch over her and the other chicks. It’s a serene, yet bustling, farm.
Part of the historic barn was kept when an old lean-to was removed. A new addition now boasts an upper level loft complete with its own deck and small seating area overlooking the Frontenac grapes. The loft can be used for bridal parties to prepare, and with a view like that as a backdrop, it’s easy to see why couples pick this venue.
On the path behind the barn you can see the attention to detail in all the flowers that Terri has carefully planted, some even embedded in felled trees. A small garden hosts a tree trunk-turned-bench titled The Kissing Log, rumored to have led to three engagements.
The two and a half mile walking path was painstakingly cut into the natural area over nine years, the slow pace the result of extremely dense habitat. Today it’s wrapped around fields of oats, alfalfa, and corn. Fifteen acres of corn is used for the maze and another large plot is reserved for pumpkins and squash.
Across the dirt road on Terri’s Bluebird Trail, row after row of apple trees blow in the breeze. In 2015 a terrible storm ripped through Watertown. Some say as many as three tornadoes converged over the orchard and combined to destroy about 5,000 trees. Fortunately, the buildings and animals escaped harm. Apples, however, were found in yards up to a mile away.
“Voted Best Apple Orchard by the viewers of a Minneapolis television channel.”
New trees have been planted, some along a beautiful ridgeline looking towards the Luce Line State Trail. Twenty-one beehives currently rest near the trees, a perfect location for pollination and honey production. With a steady diet of apple blossoms and the ample wild clover, the sweet honey alone would be worth the trip.
The Orchard is planning musical events through the summer, their off-season. Weather permitting, there will be bands and a sampling of food and beverages available. The family is very proud of their apple fritters and the sangrias and spiked cider one of their daughters concocted for the Dog House Pub. In full season they also provide food, beer, and wine.
Autumn’s the perfect time to head to LuceLine Orchard. Take a hayride pulled by a 1949 tractor. Shop in the beautiful market. Have a meal, a beer, or a cocktail. You can pet Walter the goat, named after their grandson, or the cows, or the donkeys named after Terri’s brothers. Leave the electronics behind and enjoy the games. Enjoy the fresh air. Enjoy the slower pace. Because, as Rich says, if the kids aren’t sleeping by the time you hit the tarred road, they haven’t done their job.
Roxanne is a freelance writer, fiber artist, and thirty year survivor of the hospitality and tourism industry. She is also a Commissioner on the Economic Development Authority in Watertown, MN.