In the pleasant close of an autumn day, my eighteen-year-old friend and I are making cider. We have a few hundred pounds of bruised apples that will spoil soon in the resurging warmth of Indian summer and I would rather see them turned into cider than into ruined mush.
Ben’s first turn at cranking the mill goes by somewhat slowly. He is surprised at how much force it takes to turn the grinding wheel and by how much faster it flies when there are no apples in the hopper or when those that are get jammed up some way or another.
We swap places and he feeds the apples into the hopper. “Don’t reach down in there if it gets jammed,” I warn him, “I’ll take care of that.”
It’s not that I have a greater urge to have the tips of my fingers ground into sausage; it’s just that I figure as the old man with a lot more experience, I might be a bit less likely to misgauge the safe distance. So far, I’ve been right.
Later in the evening, seeing how many apples we have left, Ben cranks up the speed. I grin to myself, scoop up double handfuls of apples and drop them into the bin. In just two or three minutes, he finishes the batch. “Did you decide that we’d get done quicker if you cranked faster?” I ask. Now, it’s his turn to grin, albeit a bit sheepishly. “Yeah,” he admits, “I thought it might go faster this way.”
Ben has also figured out the rhythm of the press. He spins the handle, guides the maple press head into the slatted basket. While he squeezes out juice, I fill a couple of gallon jugs. Then, while I empty out the pummies and clean the cloth sleeve, he transfers juice from the collecting pan into the pouring bucket. Then, we’re ready to start the next batch.
In just over two hours, we mill out fifteen gallons of cider. Fifteen gallons of sweet, pure unadulterated apple juice. Much better than four hundred pounds of ruined apples.
Other than sin itself, there are few things around us that cannot yield some good thing, given the right effort and the right approach. What we must learn to do is to be ready for the harvest and to focus on the potential good rather than the obvious defects.