April 29, 2016
Very little of interest ends up in my mailbox at the end of my driveway. Today, however, I glanced at the free local rag and saw that the 10th generation of Melick Family Farmers are bringing hard ciders and apple wine to market! I was drinking that delicious hard cider fifty years ago! It may have even been considered apple wine if it had hardened beyond 7 percent alcohol. Now it will be sold already hard and in a bottle with a fancy label. I would have loved to design that label!
At the age of fourteen I started working at Johnson’s Farm in Warren, NJ. Pa Johnson taught me how to drive the tractors and his son Eddy, fifteen years old, taught me how to drive the big farm truck so that I could help out more on the farm. During the summer when the irrigation pipes had to be moved, I was sent to drive the truck to the Farmer’s Market in Newark, NJ with a wad of cash in my pocket to purchase produce we wanted to sell, but didn’t grow ourselves. In the autumn, Pa Johnson and I drove to Melick’s Town Farm in Oldwick to pick up a truckload of apples and cases of unpreserved apple cider, the best cider in the world. Pa made me drive over the one lane bridge in the dark of night. I was terrified and angry at him when he told me if I didn’t drive over the bridge we would have to return to the farm without apples or cider. When I successfully made it over the bridge he smiled at me and said, “I wasn’t worried. I knew you could do it.”
Because the cider wasn’t preserved, at least a couple gallons would “go hard” before being sold. Unable to sell it, we were forced to drink it. It helped keep our spirits up when we were frozen stiff making Christmas wreathes and selling trees and grave blankets. The taste of the Melick’s Town Farm cider is unforgettable. Thirty years passed. I forgot that the orchards I’d driven to in my youth were in Oldwick, a half hour south of where I currently live. On a gorgeous autumn afternoon I purchased a gallon of cider at a local farm stand, pleased that it was without preservatives, remembering my happy years on Johnson’s Farm. When I sipped the cider, the taste opened a floodgate of memories, the smell of the press, the names of my favorite apples and the drive through the quaint town of Oldwick. The apples in my bag and the gallon of cider in my fridge were from the very same orchards of my youth.
Imaginary label for the Melick’s Town Farm Hard Cider. Ink and Watercolor