Cider Time on Muddy Creek
(Page 2 of 3)
The fall maturing crop is the real harvest. Since most of our trees were Winesap, Dad cooked up a deal with the Vincennes produce man to take whole wagon loads of them at a time, packed in barrels. The typical wooden apple barrel held about 2-1/2 bushels of apples and was then the standard wholesale container. These had wooden hoops and a flat head that was pressed into place with a special clamping tool.
The entire Piper gang was recruited to pick the apples when they were ready. One year, Dad had the Tucker family working for us on the farm, and the whole passel of Tucker boys helped in the picking, too. There were the twins, Carl and Clyde, and young Floyd, along with Dad and anyone else that could be recruited. The common gunny sack with a piece of binder twine tied around an apple in opposite corners made a very passable picking container. When it was swung over the shoulder and under the left arm, you could climb a ladder, pick about as much as you could carry, and when you emptied the bag, move the ladder to another spot.
As the apples were picked, they were emptied into a wagon bed and then sorted by hand and placed into barrels in neat rows. When the barrel was full, and the top layer beautifully arranged, the head was put on. This was a round, flat, wooden lid that was pressed into the grooved sides with a special press. The top hoop was then nailed into place and the barrel loaded onto a flat wagon to await the Vincennes dealer. I still have an invoice showing that Dad was paid two and a half dollars a barrel for the Winesap crop in 1920.
Picking apples was a job for the grown-ups, but the young'ns could make themselves useful and earn some spending money at the same time, by collecting the "drops," or fallen apples. These they added to the accumulating pile of culls and seconds under each tree. This was some thing they could do even better than the big folks, for they were built closer to the ground and didn't need to bend down so far to reach the apples. It really didn't matter if there were blemishes and bruises on the apples, and as far as I remember, no one complained about worms, either.
When all the picking was done, and the final barrel loaded on to the wagon, then these cider apples were picked up and loaded into wagon box and then hauled to the cider mill. This was the commercial mill over on old Route 12, west of the Sumner and Chancey Road. It sat in the fence corner right across from the Pete Buzzard farm. I don't know who operated it, but they did a land office business with the local growers who had any great number of apples to process. The smaller cider presses were used only on the family-sized orchards. Grinding a wagon-load of apples by hand could be quite a chore.