Apple Harvest on Elsie’s Mountain

19 Nov

Picking apples from trees Elsie's father planted in 1904 .

Picking apples from trees Elsie’s father planted in 1904 .

I recently enjoyed participating in the Palomar Mountain State Park Apple Harvest Fest. There were over 700 visitors that enjoyed the crisp fall mountain afternoon. It was memorable for me since many of the activities were unchanged from Elsie’s years on the mountain and my years as a child.
Apple Cider Press

Apple Cider Press

There was fresh apple cider being pressed, much in the same manner as it was done by Elsie 100 years ago (and 50 years ago when I was a teen). The children were enjoying the process of turning the large wheel that crushed the apples releasing the pungent smell. Of course it also released a few worms into the mix! The cider was heated, cinnamon stick added and I suppose the extra worm protein was the same as it has been for generations. Apple desserts and cider were free and in abundance, chili and cornbread sold.

weblg applefest #3websz CeciliaFolks were also entertained by mountain music, square dancing, Cecilia Borden spinning goat hair, and crafts for the children. I dressed in period costume (a resurrected outfit from a presentation of Fanny Crosby) and shared some of Elsie’s mountain apple history stories.

Curt & I demonstrating vintage apple sorter

Curt & I demonstrating vintage apple sorter

We demonstrated a vintage apple sorter that has survived 100 years of mountain weather. Perhaps the most awesome thought about mountain apple history for me is the longevity of the trees planted by my great grandfather 110 years ago. In the winter those old trees appear to be ready to be used for firewood. They are twisted and gnarled revealing years of neglect. But each spring the gorgeous young blossoms appear on these aged trees and each fall the apples delight many of us with apple cider, applesauce and an occasional apple dessert. Lovely to see how old can still be highly productive.
Alonzo Hayes planted this tree in 1904.

Alonzo Hayes planted this tree in 1904.

Elsie recorded in her journals that they began picking apples August 1st with 10 boxes of early apples picked. The trees were so heavy with fruit that they held the branches up with props. One tree yielded 9 boxes. The apples sold for $2.65 for a 100. Apple varieties included Smith Cider, Ben Davis, Palomar Giants, Jonathans and a number of others. Jack pruned 260 trees in the spring. One thanksgiving there was snow on ground and they still had 2 apple pickers working. Elsie cooked fifteen stuffed quail as a substitute for a turkey.
Catherine Roberts, my mother, in an apple tree 1920.

Catherine Roberts, my mother, in an apple tree 1920.

One news article from 1923 said Jack & Elsie hired about 20 apple pickers during the season. Charming Swiss immigrant Gus Weber was in charge. That article told that once the apples were in they were graded, sorted and packed.
Elsie's Aunt Mamie holding Palomar Giant apples.

Elsie’s Aunt Mamie holding Palomar Giant apples.

This second book I am compiling is taken from Elsie’s records of life on Palomar Mountain. It covers her years as a teen (spending summers there), then her years as a young wife and mother operating the apple resort year round for 5 years, and finally her last 40 years as a widow and grandmother still reveling in the joy of trips to her beloved mountain.

2 Responses to “Apple Harvest on Elsie’s Mountain”

  1. Ann Ellison November 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

    Enjoyed your article about the apple harvesting. This last October, two of my sisters and I flew to Portland, Oregon to spend some time with my brother. While we were there, one of the nurseries was hosting an apple festival. They had apple tasting, scarecrow contests, cider tasting and all kinds of fun stuff. I really enjoyed it and I never dreamed there were so many varieties of apples. It was a fun afternoon.

  2. Tammy January 2, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    I look forward to your next book about Elsie as a teen! I so enjoy reading these updates.

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