September 2019

thu sep 12
It’s thursday. I’ve been back from my Road Trip for a week.
I parked the bike, unloaded it, and haven’t touched it since. The headlight still doesn’t work, but I just don’t care.
The tempo of my life changed overnight. I know exactly where I’m going to be sleeping tonight.  Instead of googling bakeries, I’m rooting through the pantry. Instead of counting my clean undies, I’ve got an undie drawer that’s – miraculously! – always full. Instead of checking in and unpacking every night, I just … pack it in and check out.
Life on the road was pretty exciting. But you can’t beat my basement.

It’s cidering season, and I’m running late. Again.
There are a couple of trees that have out-foxed me every single year by dropping their crops before I’m ready to pick. The yellow tree in The Clump can be full one day, and empty the next, so the first thing I do in the morning is peek out the window and see if the yellow tree still has yellow apples. So far, so good.

What I’ve been trying to do is eliminate bottlenecks in my cidering process.
At first, grinding was my biggest problem, so 2 years ago, I made an apple grinder.
Then picking became my biggest problem, so I rescued a lineman’s boom from the scrap yard. I’ll be trying it out for the first time soon.
There’s no point in picking more than you can press, so now pressing becomes my biggest problem. Remember the cider press I made 2 years ago? The one where I cut my finger off making it? Well it doesn’t work so hot, and last week, I made a brand new press and I’ll be trying it out for the first time soon.
If all those improvements work, I think my biggest problem is going to be sanitation. Every single one of last year’s ciders went bad because I didn’t spend enough time cleaning. So I’ve added a dipping station to the line, and I’ll be trying it out for the first time soon.

So there are big changes coming to the cider factory, and I can guarantee that none of them are going to work right the first time.
For example, my charging system failed, and this is what happened:

mon sep 16
Some times, late at night, I get a craving for a little ice cream, so I go ahead and dish myself up a bowl.  I try to keep it down in the kitchen (while I’m dishin’) because if nobody knows I’m having a midnight snack, then so much the better.
Tonight, I was spooning myself some ice cream from a tub that seemed colder than normal, and the spoon got stuck under a chocolaty chunk that just wouldn’t give. I put some weight into it and the chunk suddenly gave way. My arm followed through, I went off balance, the spoon flew into the air (with the dish in hot pursuit), and a good sized ball of NY Super Fudge Chunk fell from the sky. It was quite the clatter!
So much for keeping it down.

Here are a couple of videos that show how my cidering process is supposed to work:
Picking with the boom:

Wash, grind, press:

tue sep 17
I thought I had this battery thing all figured out.
I thought that, by ‘jumping’ the boom battery with the tractor battery, the tractor’s alternator would keep them both charged up.
I was wrong.
The hydraulic pump motor draws about 100 amps, and it might take a good 30 seconds of pumping to put the boom where you want it, so it drains the battery really fast.
And when you drain it, you damage it, alternator or no.
So I pretty much ruined my battery. And since I don’t want to ruin another one, my apple-picking boom is pretty much out of commission and cidering has come to a screeching halt.
Right at the peak of the season!
It’s sad.

But it’s not the end of the world.
Even if I don’t pick a single ‘nother apple this year, I’ve already picked 650 pounds of them, but …
There’s got to be a way to fix this…
Hmmm … What I need is … a gasoline powered hydraulic source.
I went to all the stores. Nothing.
I looked online. Pricey.
I went to the scrap yard where I bought the boom and they not only had one, they had the nicest one I’ve ever seen. Cheap.

The minute I saw it, I knew it was right. I wonder if it runs?

tue sep 24
We woke up this morning to fire and brimstone. The place next door was on fire! (Not the green house. The other direction. Damn.) It was ‘just a shed,’ but it had a couple lawn mowers in it, plus a Harley Davidson, and some propane tanks, and they all blew up, one after another.  Nobody got hurt, but the cops are looking for a guy in a red car.

Not a rain cloud.

Then, a half hour later, Mary was at work, and there was a boom from the business next door. Pretty soon, the neighbor staggered into her office full of shrapnel from an exploded tire, wanting to use the eyewash station. Two hours later, he was deep in a hospital.

Bought it Monday. Got it running Tuesday. Mounted it Wednesday.
Thursday, it rained. All day long.

A dozen years, a dozen donuts.

Fri sep 28
Friday, I picked apples.  In round numbers: In 4 hours, I picked 4 trees and  got about 400# of apples. That sure makes the math easy!

The new hydraulic system is a marvel. You park the tractor, you push a button, you climb in, and pretty soon you are floating beside a carpet of the ripest apples on the highest branches of the biggest trees around, raking them in. I tellya: when I solved the Picking problem, I solved it in style!

Tree #1: 5.25 cubic feet. Eight 5-gallon buckets.
I still don’t have a way to weigh them.

sat sep 28
Give me your honest opinion.
Do you think I’m getting carried away with apples?
Do you wonder what I’m going to do with all this juice that costs me all this time, trouble, and expense? Where is he going with this?

sun sep 29
The kids were here today to help make cider. Help. Help! Hellllp!!!

I tellya, you gotta really crack the whip to get some action out of these kids, but once they show up, they take orders pretty good. We picked 5 buckets from 2 trees and then went through the whole wash/rinse/grind/load/press/bottle process, with them running the equipment. It took 3 hours start to finish and we got about 4 gallons. Some day, I’m going to do the math.

Next time, raise the bed before moving forward.

Working. Together. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The state fair has come and gone by cider season, but …
Blue ribbons all around!!

I need to re-think my boxes.
Maybe find a way so they don’t fall apart when you drag them.

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