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Story ID:9237
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Gilboa New York USA
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By Fred Wickert

This time of year brings some of my fondest memories of my child hood. From now until the end of October is apple picking time in the North East. Different varieties of apples ripen at different times. The first ones to ripen will be picked first and it will continue until the last variety is picked.

As a small boy on the farm I remember the work, but with it I remember the fun. Our cow pasture was also a seventeen acre apple orchard. Our farm was in the Town of Dewitt and only a half mile outside the city of Syracuse, New York. We always had to keep a sharp eye out for city people who believed they could just help themselves to the apples. Barely a day passed without at least one car parking by the back fence, thinking they could not be seen, and stealing apples. We never called the police. We just confronted them and told them to get off the property.

With the cows, the apples falling off the trees were a problem every year. Cows enjoyed apples and every year when the apples began falling off the trees one or two ate too many apples and got bloated. When that happened Dad never bothered to call a vet. He just took his knife and punctured the cow in the right place and the gas came blowing out. Soon the cow was fine.

Dad had built a road side stand. In the summer we sold sweet corn, tomatoes, peppoers and cabbage there. In late summer we sold peaches and grapes, and finally we sold pears, apples, and apple cider. Apples and pears were sold by the peck, half bushel and bushel.

Dad had acquired several oak barrels that held fifty gallons each. We filled the bed of the pick up truck with apples and then took them to a cider mill. At the cider mill, the men ran the apples through a grinder. Then the ground up apples were placed in large burlap squares with wood frames. These were stacked several high and then squeezed downwards by a large hydraulic press. The apple cider ran out into a large vat and was then drained through strainers in to the barrels. We took the filled barrels home to the stand.

Some people came with their own gallon jugs. There was a small pump placed in the spigot hole of the barrel and the jugs were filled with cider. All year around we collected empty gallon jugs. In those days nearly every drug store had a soda fountain where they sold ice cream and soda. They got their Coca Cola syrup in gallon jugs. When someone bought a Coke, some syrup was squirted in to a glass. Then carbonated water was poured in and finally a little plain water. It was all stirred up and you had your Coke. When the Coke syrup jugs were empty they gave them away or threw them away. We gathered them, took them home and washed them out in boiling water. These we used to sell our cider in. If they used our jug the price was a dime more. There were always some paper cups so that customers could get a free sample of the cider before they bought any, just to see if they liked the taste.

Of course we had all the apple cider we wanted to drink. After a few days fermentation made the cider no longer fit to sell as sweet cider, so we took another load of apples to the cider mill and filled another barrel. From time to time, if Dad had men working for him and the work was really dusty, when they stopped for lunch I was told to get the big aluminum piture and go fill it with cider. To me it was too far gone to drink but they always enjoyed their hard cider. By winter it had turned to vinegar.

Another bonus from this time of year on the farm was that there was apple pie for desert and after school snacks almost every day. I had forgotten to mention that along with the apples, pears, and cider we also sold pumpkins. As the end of October came near, people began asking for bundles of corn stalks to be used for decoration. We did our best to oblige, though we had already cut most of the corn by then to feed to livestock. Pigs really had fun with those corn stalks. They used them like toys.

Of course on the farm there was always a lot of activity in the kitchen during apple season. In addition to the apple pies, there were gallons and gallons of applesauce being canned, and there was apple jelly too. Cut up slices of apple were also canned for pie filling during the winter months. A few bushels of apples were stored in the fruit cellar where they lasted well into the winter and were eaten at home and taken to school in our lunches.

Now I have been away from the farm for more than a half century. When I moved in to this house in the Catskill Mountains sixteen years ago I planted a small orchard of about twenty five trees. I have already enjoyed cherries and plums. In about a week I will begin picking the first of the apples. My pears and Asian pears arenít ready yet. It will be a month before I enjoy them, but the first of the apples will soon be ready. I have far more than I can use myself so will be sharing them with friends and neighbors.

Soon the leaves will turn color and they will display Gods beauty in these mountains at its best. Then they will fall and soon winter will be here. Nights are getting colder and already I smell the unmistakable odor of wood smoke. I love this time of year but dread Old Man Winter who will be here sooner than I wish. Maybe it wonít be so bad after all. I will have apples for some pie for Christmas.

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