Sunday, October 14, 2012

Squeezing Apples

My brother Hank calls it the Cider Bee.  It's an old fashioned term for an old fashioned event, one that has been a tradition in my family for a long time now.

When my mom and dad were still living on our small farm in the Willamette Valley, they would host the annual family cider bee.  My generation were into adulthood, and our kids were small.  They spent their time playing in the sheds and barns, climbing in and out of the pick up trucks, drinking the fresh cider and eating apples and Mom's hot-out-of-the oven sticky buns.  Yum!

The apples we used then were mostly windfalls, apples picked up off the ground from neighbors untended trees, the kind you would see all over the valley around old farm houses.  The apples were wormy and definitely not store quality.  We used them anyway.

But the tradition goes back much father than that.  We were using my great grandfather's old cider press, from a time when it was necessary to live off the land.  The good apples would have gone into the fruit cellar, at least those that weren't already preserved in applesauce, apple butter, and canned apple slices for pies.  The windfalls and blemished apples would have been made into cider, some of which would have been fermented into cider vinegar, then used for pickling and sauerkraut. 

Now, in the latest iteration of this traditional family gathering, we meet at Hank's house near Chehalis, WA.  My uncle has claimed the old cider press so Hank bought a new one.  The apples are seconds that he buys from the Yakima area - no worms.  But the process is still the same.

There is one big difference this year.  It is the first without our mother and grandmother.  Mother died shortly after our cider bee last year.  It is the last of the firsts this year without her.  It is also the first time it has ever rained on our family festival.  We talked about this, of course.  Tears in heaven.

When Tom and I arrived from Seattle about 11:00 the production had been going on for about an hour.  With us came the rain, and a time out in the action.  We gathered in the garage where we would be eating later and visited over coffee and doughnuts.

Brother-in-law Mike and sister Laurie braved the drizzle to get back to work.
The level of apples in the half-ton tote lowered as the work progressed.
Corey, Jake, Isaac and Irene joined us an hour later, having first attended Isaac's soccer game.  The cousins were soon off and running around.
Brother-in-law Arnie manned the grills, cooking the chicken and corn on the cob.
Hank and his wife Cindy served as hosts, product quality controllers, and safety captains.

This was the first cider bee for son-in-law Corey.
His job was a strain :), but not hard.
I managed to capture this photo of all of my guys: Corey, Jake, Tom and Isaac.  Irene was off with her girl cousins playing pretend and giving the boys guff.  Jill was unable to attend, instead spending the weekend at a Mountaineering first aid training.
I had some good conversations with my sisters, remembering old times.  We all ate together and laughed and cried together. We handled the rain and finished the job.  Everyone had cider to take home.  Mom,  and Dad, and the Grandfathers would be proud of us.


  1. Every year I look forward to reading about this family tradition. You did not disappoint.

  2. What a wonderful tradition. Love the picture of your 4 guys. I remember well the "year of firsts" without Mom. It was also when my siblings and I became "the oldest living generation" for our family as my father had passed away many years earlier; wasn't quite ready for that and am not sure that I am ready for it yet! :)

  3. A lovely family tradition, enjoyed all the photos as always. Have a great week Linda.

  4. This is just the most awesome family tradition, Linda. I love it! I hope the young ones are able to keep the tradition going forever. I'll bet that is the most wonderful cider ever since it is infused with love.

  5. you are probably the matriarch now-that's always a surprise...looks like fun despite the weather!

  6. Lin, I am not quite the matriarch of the clan, but almost. I have two sisters, and I'm the middle one, ages 70, 68, 66. We are the oldest of our generation on our mother's side of the family.

  7. My husband lusts after a cider press. One of these days I'll find one on craig's List or at a yard sale and it will make him happy....and make more work for me, cleaning up after his mess!

  8. What a fun family tradition! We used to make cider when we were kids and nothing tastes better than the fresh cider!

  9. I am such a lazy bum, I probably would just buy the apple cider from the store! Love your pictures, though.

  10. At least it was raining in Chehalis. Hope you got a little of the wind and rain we had yesterday. It was a blustery day but not too bad. I went to see "Argo" and will write about it, maybe. It was good.

  11. I love the Cider Bee :)
    wonderful photos as always, I enjoy your family so much

    the first of firsts is always difficult yet necessary to mark
    then the good memories come out to comfort


  12. This sounded like such great fun! Love the traditions of it all.

  13. What a fabulous tradition! How fun that you keep it up for the upcoming generations. Sounds like an incredible amount of work, but the best memories are often wrapped in the work, right?

  14. A nice family traditional occasion Linda. Thanks for inviting us in - Dave

  15. Linda..I am a week behind in my blog reading at least, but I wanted to thank you for the supportive and kind comments regarding my Mother.. You have been spot on with them and I appreciate it so much...hugs..Michelle

  16. What a wonderful reason for a family celebration! Another adventure in making memories. It doesn't look like the rain ruined anything.

    My friend used to work for a company in Veneta that made apple presses.

    Sorry that your Mom and Granmother have now gone, Linda.

    Kathy M.


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