Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘apples’

Find a Taste of Fall at Hillcrest Orchard of Walnut Creek

Hillcrest applesSurely the apple is the noblest of fruits.

~Henry David Thoreau~

Apple cider becomes a favorite drink during autumn, and apples are ranked number one in the top ten healthiest foods. So harvest time felt perfect for a trip to Hillcrest Orchard of Walnut Creek to get fresh apples and cider. Rain or shine, this is a bustling place in the fall.

Hillcrest front

   With over 20,000 bushels of apples this year, they have over twenty varieties from which to choose. Two customer favorites are Golden Delicious and Honey Crisp, my personal choice. Their newest variety is now available – Evercrisp, a combination of Honey Crisp and Fuji.

   Hillcrest Orchard has been in the family since 1968. Today Merle and Lela Hershberger own and operate the orchard with help from their children. Their grandfather, Jacob Hershberger, still helps out as often as possible.

Hillcrest view from overlook

An overview features their orchard and beautiful Mud Valley.

   With over 75 acres of apple trees and 5 acres of peach trees, the Hershberger family works all year round. When the new year begins in January, it’s time to trim trees and remove a block of old trees.

   Then in April, it’s planting time each year for approximately 4,000 dwarf trees – most of them being apple. Luckily, they have a tree transplanter, which is pulled behind a tractor. They can sit on the transplanter and drop in the new trees three feet apart. With this method, they can plant over 1,500 trees in one day.

   There’s always work to be done. After planting trees, the trunks are hand wrapped with wire to keep them straight. Trellises, holding two wires that go through the trees, keep the branches from hanging to the ground. During the summer months, the apples need to be thinned on each tree. An apple tree cannot be too full of apples for best production.

Hillcrest Apple sorter

Matt Hershberger often runs the apple sorter.

   In the fall when picking begins, some extra help is needed from young people in the community. All the apples are hand-picked from ladders. That is one of the reasons they switched to dwarf apple trees so they could more easily be reached.

Hillcrest Cidermill

Mark Hershberger and his son, Adam, explain the cider press.

   Fresh pressed apple cider is made at their business operation every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. During October they make 4,000 gallons each week. One Friday/Saturday last year they sold 2,250 gallons.

Hillcrest Sample

A free sample of fresh apple cider tasted refreshing.

   Their cider is unpasteurized so it’s placed immediately in a cooling tank. That also means that it’s only good for about two weeks. Be sure to get a free sample while visiting.

Hillcrest Vinegar

There are many uses for apple cider vinegar.

   Whatever cider isn’t sold is placed into wooden barrels for one year. There it becomes apple cider vinegar, which is also available at their store.

Hillcrest Apple butter

Their fresh apple butter was a popular item.

   However, apples and their products aren’t the only things on hand. Hillcrest Orchard’s the perfect place to find organic fruits and vegetables while in season. Their products look picture perfect. You can also buy pumpkins, mums, baled hay or straw. You’ll be surprised at all the treats available.

Hillcrest Kettle Corn

In the parking lot, Hostetler Kettle Corn provides an extra treat.

   Outside during the fall months, you’ll enjoy the flavor of Hostetler Kettle Corn. Freshly popped in the lot, the smell draws you to their tent. Pick up a bag to munch on while driving home through beautiful Amish country.

   The children and grandchildren feel part of the business as they have grown up in the orchard and store. Hopefully, those youngsters will someday continue providing apples and peaches for all to enjoy.

Hillcrest Welcome

Bags of fresh apples greet you – The First Taste of Fall.

   Merle’s son, Mark, lists pressing cider and picking apples as his favorite chores. When asked what he’d like to do in the future, his answer, “Plant more trees.” What do these hard-working young men like to do for fun? Deer hunt! There’s evidence of that around their store with several deer head mounts.

Hillcrest Cider Sign   Hillcrest Orchard is open from July through April. It has even become a requested stop for tour buses. Many people make an annual visit there in the fall and some stop by often to pick up fresh produce. One man said he took the cider home and froze it in small containers so he could have fresh tasting cider for months to come.

Hillcrest Check out

Area young people help out during their busiest season – September and October.

   Stop by the orchard and pick up some apples straight from the tree. Apples can be enjoyed in so many different ways: apple pie, applesauce, apple butter, apple crisp, dipped in caramel, or just take a bite of a fresh, juicy one. However you decide to use the apples, they will taste delicious.

   Remember, apples are also healthy, so that old adage of ‘an apple a day’ is a good rule to follow. Stop at Hillcrest Orchard of Walnut Creek on your next trip to Amish Country and experience the fresh taste of fall.

Hillcrest Orchard of Walnut Creek can be reached off I-77 at Exit 83. Go left on OH 39W until you reach 515. Turn right at the light, then go straight back about a half mile to the Orchard on the right. 

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Ohio’s Johnny Appleseed Ap*peel*ing to the Core

An apple a day keeps the doctor away is a saying we have heard most of our lives. But John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, has a slightly different version:  Eat an apple before you go to bed, and make the doctor beg his bread.

Each evening before the appearance of historical scholars, local musical groups entertained with songs from frontier times.  This particular evening a group called Unwound presented lively music on two hammer dulcimers accompanied by guitar and tapping Limberjacks.  They got the crowd in the Chautauqua tent at Marietta Ohio ready for the appearance of Johnny Appleseed, an excellent yarn spinner.

John Chapman wanted to do something useful with his life that would also support his ministry. Apples seemed to be the perfect tool as they were the only fruit that could stay fresh for an extended time. There was a litany of uses given by John regarding his favorite fruit: apple chips, apple butter, apple brandy, and even payment for taxes…to name a few. Would you believe his favorite color is apple red?

Starting a nursery for Johnny was a simple affair: poke a hole, plant a seed, cover it up. He tried to anticipate where people would be settling in two or three years and would start a nursery in that vicinity. Johnny said that in order to claim the land, the homestead law required settlers to plant fifty apple trees during the first year. Sometimes you might see him going down the Ohio River with two canoes:  Johnny in the first one, 50 apple seedlings or apple seeds in the second.

In 1812 when troubles in America erupted with the British and the Indians, Johnny said the fear grew deeper than the snow. These war years were painful for Johnny, as he had always been friends with both Indians and whites.  Trying to make peace was like trying to put out a fire – while you were stomping on one, you were fanning the rest. At this time, he felt the Indians were like a tornado – you never knew where they were going to strike.  But you couldn’t always trust the British either as they burned whole villages – another white man’s promise up in smoke!

With his constant good humor, he admonished listeners not to believe everything they heard about him, “Gossip is like the measles, sooner or later it will turn your face red.”  For example, barefoot Johnny Appleseed did not walk over the entire country.  His travels and consequent apple tree plantings only occurred in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and often in a State of Confusion.

Johnny was deeply religious and felt his religion gave him a peaceful path to tread. His was the perfect life in his eyes because sometimes he was with people… but sometimes by himself.  He often enjoyed being alone and said he was not “the marrying kind”.

He spent his life doing good deeds for others and planted more than just apple trees. He also planted spiritual seeds that nourished the soul.

Along the way to Marietta, stopped just south of Dexter City on SR 821 to see a monument dedicated to Johnny Appleseed.  It is made of small rocks contributed by people in areas where Johnny planted apple tree.  The grave sites of his family are located nearby.  The tree to the right behind it is, of course, an apple tree.

Hank Fincken displayed a great sense of humor in his portrayal of Johnny Appleseed /John Chapman.  Johnny was the first historic figure that Hank ever developed. He feels it opened doors for him much the way Johnny’s seedlings opened doors for early settlers.

2012 Ohio Chautauqua continues throughout the summer with week long performances and workshops in Gallipolis (July 17-21) and Warren (July 24-28). Hope you find time to join them and learn a little more about “When Ohio Was the Western Frontier”.

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