Cider Time on Muddy Creek

Picking apples to use for sweet cider was a fall favorite on Muddy Creek

| October 2000

  • Bantam one-tub cider press
    The Bantam one-tub cider press by Hocking Valley Mfg. Co., Lancaster, Ohio.
  • Hocking Valley Junior cider mill
    Hocking Valley Junior cider mill. The two tubs allowed for increased production.

  • Bantam one-tub cider press
  • Hocking Valley Junior cider mill

When I think of cider, I find a refrain from a record on the old Edison phonograph dancing around in my head. "On the hill, where they made sweet cider, those evening bells would chime, I always remember that golden September, sweet cider time when you were mine." That was one of Dad's favorite tunes. I have no idea who wrote it, or sang it, but it surely describes the joy of fall and drinking real fresh cider. 

On Muddy Creek, in the early twenties, we had a small commercial orchard of about 12 acres. Most of the trees were Winesap, with some Grimes Golden, Ben Davis and Willowtwigs thrown in. There were a few Early June and some transparent apples that were used for apple "sass," but these were not really very satisfying for the apple connoisseur.

There is surely a lot of work associated with the growing of apples, more than you can imagine: The starting of the orchard, setting out the trees, fending off rabbits (whose taste for fresh tender apple tree bark seems insatiable), and Jersey cows, who relish the tender tips of the newly set trees and manage to find a hole in the fence somewhere, just as the first spring leaves are emerging. These are only a few of the risks in starting an orchard.

Apple trees are much like your kids: You never get 'em growed. It is a constant worry and fight to keep the bugs, the scale and the animals from getting the crop first. Dad found, and traded for, a sprayer on wheels with a wooden tank that held about 150 gallons of water and arsenic in lead solution. The one lung engine, when it would run, pumped this solution under high pressure through long hoses with bamboo-covered pipe nozzles. We sprayed two or three times in the spring, and never gave thought to the overspray that covered us with the lead solution. I never heard of anyone suffering ill effects from such spraying, so I guess we were just plumb lucky.

During the winter months, pruning was a big and necessary chore to keep the water sprouts down and the non-producing limbs from taking over the trees. During the cold season, the trees needed to be sprayed with used cylinder oil to kill the scale, and while the ground was frozen, and the barn needed cleaning out, the trees got a good dose of fertilizer.

Uncounted myriads of tummy aches have resulted from eating green apples. After a long winter of feeding on tasteless apple "hole" preserved by Ben Davis, even walnut-size green apples have a deadly attraction for all, especially growing boys.


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