Monday, October 5, 2015

KC Royals Playoffs Bound 2015

The Kansas City (KC) Royals are headed to the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs for the second year in a row. This year is even sweeter as they are the 2015 American League (AL) Central champs rather than a wild card. That guarantees at least three games rather than the one game play in the wild card teams have to gut out.

The offense is much better this season with Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas taking their games to the next level. Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon had steady seasons even with Gordon being derailed by the DL. Kendrys Morales was a huge upgrade to Billy Butler. Alcides Escobar, Jarod Dyson and Omar Infante have fallen off from last year but the pick up of Ben Zobrist helped make up for the last one.

The pitching staff had an identity crisis after James Shields headed west as it left a vacuum for an ace. Yordano Ventura started off rocky but answered the wake up call after his yo-yo ride to the minors. Jeremy Guthrie could not repeat his unheralded performance from last year and was extremely hittable. Edinson Volquez proved to be a good pick up and challenged to be the ace but sputtered down the stretch. Danny Duffy never found the dominance he had before his 2014 injury. Kris Medlen on the other hand has been solid since returning from his elbow injury that had sidelined him with the Braves for all of 2014. Johnny Cueto has people shouting bust rather than being the ace he was rented to be. The bullpen has been nearly as stellar but the elbow of Greg Holland finally gave out after one too many heart attack performances. That bumps the capable Wade Davis to be closer, Kelvin Herrera to the 8th and Ryan Madson to the 7th. Herrera has been struggling over the past 30 plus and that is troubling.

As hot as the Royals were in the 2014 playoffs they have been the opposite down the final stretch to close out 2015. After racing out to such a big lead in the AL Central they have started to run out of gas with a 10-17 September. That has allowed the red hot Toronto Blue Jays to edge past with the best record in the American League. Only a handful of games through Sunday with home field advantage at stake. Unless the Royals get hot and the Blue Jays falter it will be the Royals and Texas Rangers in the divisional series. That may be the more favorable match up to get their confidence and mojo back on track.

(Editor's note: Kansas City Royals fans follow population-we™ (pop-we) contributor John Bohan as he blogs about the KC Royals playoff journey at Baseball Me Love. This article originally appeared in an Sept. 30th Baseball Me Love blog post.)

-population-we™ blog post by John Bohan
© 2015 population-we, LLC 
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Nebraska City Welcomes AppleJack Festival and More

Harvest time in Nebraska City, NE is the time for the annual AppleJack Festival where apples will be on center stage from Sept. 18-20.

The city where Arbor Day traces its history honors its heritage while providing all the elements for an old-fashioned family friendly celebration. Union Orchard reports, “AppleJack is an amazing time. People come out to enjoy the country and get farm goodies. We have music and orchard tours. We are still working on the restoration, so things look different to our customers who come out once a year. We have added a large event pavilion and several picnic areas throughout the property.”

My friend Gwen Johnson had the opportunity to visit Union Orchard. She said, “It (is) really beautiful out there and it really nice to close to nature, picking apples, going into the little market seeing all the different ways you could use apples. Some were strange and some were quite interesting. It was fun and very enjoyable experiencing God's creation.”

Main AppleJack Festival attraction. ~Beverly Newsam
A labor of love is taking place at Union Orchard as the Wostrel family works to restore the orchard dating back to 1885. Since the family purchased the farm in 2011, they have planted over 6,000 trees and 2,000 vines. They have about 5,000 more trees to plant before we are through with the restoration. The type of trees they are planting start producing fruit in three years and are disease resistant.

In reply to my question about the varieties and the availability of the apples that they grow, Union Orchard said, “We have 19 varieties of desert apples. They are planted by maturity time. Zestar starts in mid-August and Arkansas Black matures around Halloween. Because of this, we always have something fresh and just off of the tree. Lots of common varieties like Gala, but some special ones like Honeycrisp and Candy Crisp too. We do have some heirlooms planted, but they are semi-dwarf and will start maturing in a few years. We are planting lots of apples to use in future hard cider. “

In addition to apples in their natural ready to sink your teeth into state, Union Orchard also has fresh pastries too including pies, donuts, turnovers, and apple cinnamon rolls--many of which are baked fresh on site. (Are you hungry yet?)

The orchard also grows grow strawberries, rhubarb, elderberries, pumpkins peaches, and cherries.

They are “working to make Union Orchard one of the finest fall entertainment venues around. It will take us a few more years, but we are committed and making it happen.”

My friend Beverly Newsam also filled me in on some of the festivities during AppleJack Festival. She visited Historic Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard and found it packed with people excited to purchase apples and goodies. The staff was very friendly and made people feel right at home according to her. She lists the produce and goodies that she stocked up on while there:” apples, apple pie, apple cinnamon syrup, and the famous (and delicious) apple doughnuts. We also bought cherry jubilee drink, peach salsa, boysenberry preserves, and blueberry jam. She said that the orchard staff worked hard to keep up with demand, which included a long line just for the doughnuts! She enjoyed the hayrack ride that took people to where they could pick their own apples. She added that there were vendors and children activities.

Popular apple doughnuts  ~Beverly Newsam
Beverly enjoyed the sensory pleasures of the day. She said, “My favorite season is fall, and it was such a beautiful, sunny day to walk through the orchard. Outside, vendors made and sold Kettle Corn, which smelled so delicious. Inside, it was easy to smell the apple doughnuts, which were made very regularly due to popularity.”

There are other important and must see stops in Nebraska City, NE. When I was in 8th grade, my class took a field trip to Nebraska City, NE to see some of the important historical sites. Nebraska’s first recognized nationally recognized Underground Railroad historical site was on our tour. We viewed the reenactment displays in John Brown’s cave.

Arbor Lodge was another highlight of the trip. Visiting John Brown’s Cabin and Arbor Lodge were also two of the tours on my mom’s field trip when she was in the 6th grade.

The sections of the 52 room mansion open to the public made quite an impression on me at age 13. I wish that I had a copy of my essay about the mansion that was chosen to be displayed in the room where I had English and Spelling that year.

Arbor Day Farm has 260 acres and is available for tours. There may be historical sites posers around the country, but this is this undeniable historical land. J. Sterling Morton started planting an orchard soon after arriving in Nebraska City, NE in 1855. He is the founder of Arbor Day and the tradition continues strong on the land that was donated to the state. Arbor Day, the day when people are encouraged to plant a tree, is always the last Friday of April, but can vary by state as to when it is observed.

I am impressed with the grass roots effort of concerned community leaders who now manage Arbor Day Foundation. From what I gather from a conversation with Susan Freshman, guest experience manager, Arbor Day Farm may have closed if it were not for the concerned citizens. The state still owns the land that was a gift from J. Morton Sterling in 1923. The Arbor Day Foundation, which is made up of concerned citizens, manages Arbor Day Farm. The state is funding the 1.5 million dollar renovation project underway at Arbor Lodge Farms.

For even more interactive history, there is still more to learn and explore at the Lewis and Clark Missouri River Visitors Center in Nebraska City.

As I am an aficionado of apples, I have rather enjoyed thinking about them often as I prepared to write about the AppleJack Festival and Nebraska City. Growing up, we purchased apples from a couple in Valley, NE who have since retired. Apple crisp and applesauce were two of my mom’s specialties. Can you smell the simmering or baking apples now? In recent years, I continued to eat apples but was so disappointed with store bought apples. They weren’t usually bad. They usually weren’t good either. Blandness from my first bite into the waxy peel to the last as I neared the core is what I found. I did a poll on social media asking people what their favorite varieties of apples were. Gala and Honeycrisp ranked high. When they were in season, I sampled my first Honeycrisp from an Nebraska orchard. Finally, I tasted an apple with flavor that I had been sorely missing. If there isn’t a word to describe the sound, taste, and sensation of biting into a crisp apple, there should be!

Nebraska City, NE is a great place to visit during Harvest Season or any season. Come for Yule celebrations during the holidays. Come in spring to see the trees lined with blossoms. Come enjoy the history of this part of the country.

-population-we blog post by Barb Bohan 
© 2015 population-we, LLC
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