Folks from all around must have wonderful memories of harvest time and many tales to tell of the old days and the lore of the land. Here is a story I would like to share about my folks and our old friends.
Oh, the warm, crisp days of Autumn! The nights are cooler, the mornings chilly and the afternoons warm, cozy and lazy. The rustling leaves twirling around in the gentle breeze, crackling under your feet as you walk along the path, their brilliant colors sparkling in the sunlight. The smells! The smell of dried grasses and flowers, leaves raked up in piles, herbs from the garden hanging in the pantry for drying and the wonderful aroma of ripe apples is so fragrant and brings back all the memories of the family getting together with other families in the neighborhood. The loving childhood memories stay with us forever. It is Apple Cider Time!
This was the time of year that the Dubhghalls (us), Ruzickis, Vonderhuevals, Callaghans, Costas and Mr. Schoonhoven all got together and became one big family, regardless of our origins. Mr. Schoonhoven was a dark mystery to all us kids. He lived alone in the biggest house around that area, way at the back of the biggest yard we had ever seen. His house was surrounded by tall trees and it was dark back in there. We rarely saw him except at Apple cider Time and then he was only there a short while to talk with my Dad, smoking his pipe, then was gone again. He seemed a lonesome man, quiet and very private, kept to himself for most the time.
The neighborhood I grew up in was in the Pacific Northwest. This was a special place for me and my six siblings, four brothers and two sisters. We were the Irish. The family on the hill to the west were Scottish. Further down the hill was the Italian family. Up the hill from us, back to the northwest were the German family and just above us were the Polish family.
All around us and in between our homes were the remnants of once fine and huge apple orchards. A few trees grew here and there, left over from days of old when there must have been only one or two farms in the area. They still produced wonderful and juicy apples, some Granny Smith, like the four in our front yard, some Golden and Red Delicious and even some Crab Apple trees up on the hill at the Bedlow's old place. No one knew where the Bedlows originally came from, but they were just as much a part of the neighborhood as the rest of us. Even though they kept to themselves, they allowed us to come up to their yard at harvest time to pick the ripe crab apples, but they never joined in the fun and frolic. Dad always made sure they got a few jugs of the cider though.
Mr. Ruzicki had a very old and very large oak cider press that made the best apple cider ever. I have never tasted any better. If I close my eyes and feel the warm autumn sun on my face and listen to the leaves scuttering along the path, I can almost taste that cool cider. Mr. Ruzicki and my Father were the ones to organize and operate the press. The kids, were in charge of picking the apples and hauling them up the hill to the backyard where the cider press was. The Mothers were in charge of inspecting and preparing the apples for the press and the toddlers and babies were safely napping most the time in playpens set up in the shade near the Mothers.
Everyone had brought as many bottle and jugs as they could to get their share of the cider to take home. Some of it was frozen and would last up to a year, some of it was pasteurized to prevent further fermenting and some it disappeared into Dad's old tool shed to ferment a little longer.
It would take all day to finish up with this huge event and along about dusk, when the fathers were cleaning up the old press, the mothers all went to their own kitchens to cook up some supper then bring it up to the tables set around that old cider press. We would all sit down, give our thanks to the Lord and chow down, each with a cup of cider to wash down the food with.
A few weeks after the Apple Cider Time, we would all gather at our house for the Corn Cob Harvest and Eating Contest. Dad grew the best corn and Mom knew just how to cook it proper. It was sweet and fresh and when smothered in butter was heaven! Lots of other foods were on the long table in our dining room with other tables added to stretch clear into the front parlour. All the fathers and oldest boys tried to eat more than anyone of the corn on the cob. My eldest brother, Willy, usually won.
After supper, the mothers cleared the tables, stored any leftovers, tended the babies and the older kids ended up in the kitchen washing dishes. The fathers? Well - they each grabbed a mug and followed Dad to the old tool shed.
Note from editor: family names are fictitious.