Year 5: Saturday – cider on!

Saturday morning Emily and I screwed together the base grate while people drifted in for breakfast.  Just when the pikes were about to come out, Brandon and company showed up and produced some very tasty pancakes, which hit the spot with North End maple syrup.  As promised, it was raining steadily.  Joshua finalized the attachment of the grinder to the grinder support frame, and improvised a derailleur mount out of extrusion and bolts, which proved to be a critical addition.  I went to splice the chain and discovered to my dismay that my chain tool was missing its drive pin, without which no chain would be spliced.  I went over to the old homestead shop to find an old drill bit to grind into a spare pin, but in parallel checked to see if anyone in the crowd happened to have a chain tool on them.  As it happened the Dorsons came prepared for any eventuality, and the chain was rapidly spliced.  With similar facility, the upper press pan was freehand thermoformed with a propane torch to fit inside the lower press pan (I had cold-formed the upper pan out of 1/8″ polyethylene on a finger brake, but it had relaxed to its former planar configuration in the intervening days).  The same propane torch was used to light a roaring fire in the redneck reflector oven, which soon threw an appreciable amount of heat into the barn.  And as has been the case pretty much without exception, the tamper used to actually force the apples into the grinder was left to the last minute; I hacked one out of a piece of firewood and Alexi and company found a stick to use as a handle.  It was perhaps between 10 and 11am by the time we were ready to go.

Alexi and Leeann feed the grinder

Then we launched into the first pail of apples.  We quickly discovered that there was an alarming degree of flex in the tandem mount arrangement, probably due to the forks being rotated significantly from the neutral position, and from the identical phasing of the two pedalers.  This led to a significant cyclic extension in the chain, one which was taken up by the brand new derailleur assembly.  Even so, after only a half a bucket or so of apples, the secondary drive chain came loose, and the assembly came to a halt with a worrisome series of loud chunking noises.  It seemed that a larger-than-ideal chunk had gotten into the post crusher, causing the post crusher drums to get out of phase, putting a substantial load on the secondary drive system and causing the bearings to slip.  We loosened things up, put them back where they belonged, and started up again, this time more timidly.

loading the cheese frame

The same sequence happened a couple more times and was corrected by the efforts of the crack cycle engineering team (I was mostly running around seeing to this and that detail), but the hardware gradually found a setup it was happy with, and performed well from then on, albeit with the previously mentioned flex in the system which was taken up by the derailleur.  Once it was tuned up, the grinder performed admirably, without noticeable slowing even when two larger apples were pressed hard against the drum.  The second pedaler made all the difference.

By contrast to the tuning required by the grinder, the new press went into service pretty much without a hitch.  Brandon jumped on the bike, grabbed the controls, and pressed most of the first few batches of cider.  A truly impressive gout of cider would pour out of the press pan into the catch pail when the stack was getting squished most rapidly; the pressure required to extract this quantity of cider did not even register on the 3000psi gage.  The only annoying thing was the leakage through the overpressure limit on the spool valve, which we inferred had a metal-metal seal that was not perfectly tight.  (We had installed a soft-seat check valve at the output of the pump, so we were fairly certain the leakage was in the valve.  I had all the parts to move the check valve to the outlet of the spool valve and install a manual bypass, but with the wheel bearing adventures of the previous days simply did not have a chance to implement it by Saturday.)  The net result was that the operator had to maintain a pretty significant mechanical output in order to hold the pressure above 1500psi, and this got tiring.  But even with limited time at pressure, the pomace was satisfyingly dry when the stack was released, and additional pressure did not seem to extract a huge amount of extra juice, so we pronounced it satisfactory.

Once the system was running well, the juice started to accumulate quickly.  We exhausted the supply of empty gallon jugs folks had brought, and Jonah and Ilana went up town for some gallon jugs of water (buying empty jugs online turns out to cost the same as supermarket drinking water).  A team led by Kelsey assembled a fine lunch including hot soup, bread, and sandwich fixings, with s’mores for dessert roasted over the redneck oil drum hibachi.   When the sweet cider apple pile was pretty much exhausted mid-afternoon, we switched over to the cider apple mix from Poverty Lane and started filling carboys.  At some point the bicycle operating the press suffered a mechanical failure; the lock ring holding the cassette together on the rear wheel sheared off, disabling the hydraulic pump.  Once again we were brought up short, and once again the assembled crew came through with a patch, this time by swapping out the appropriate part from the rear wheel of the tandem (which was not being driven).  And we were off again.  Sometime shortly before 4pm, the collective consensus was that rather than working late to finish the small remaining pile of apples, we should knock off early and leave the rest for Sunday, when the weather was forecast to be good and Keith would be there to enjoy the action.  So that’s what we did; the Summer Street Gang headed to #5 to make dinner, while the rest enjoyed some respite in the cabins.  In the upper cabin we got some old-time music going, with 2 fiddles, 2 guitars, and a banjo.  Dinner was served at #5 around 6:30, with chili, corn bread, cider, and Holly’s fantastic apple pie – 2 9 inch and 2 12 inch beauties.  Folks were good and tired by the time dinner and conversation died down, retiring to the cabins for the night well before 12P (though when I turned in there was a fierce game of Settlers going on in the red barn).

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One Response to “Year 5: Saturday – cider on!”

  1. Brandon Says:

    For those of you following along at home, “Just when the pikes were about to come out” was 8:15 AM on Saturday morning. At the Polito compound, that’s how they roll.

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