January 2019 - 39

NOTES FROM THE FARM
Self-designed pie-baking system pays dividends
JERRY MILLS
Mills Apple Farm
jerry@millsapplefarm.com
covered with gravel), to carry water
away. That took three days but I did it
and I hope it works.
However, the rock road next to the
Thanksgiving Day is our most
exciting bakery day of the year. The
bakers prep for it long in advance
and Tuesday and Wednesday before
Thanksgivings are just like the start of
marathons. The bakers arrive early, on
go the ovens, out come the crusts and
the fillings and by the time the ovens
have reached baking temperature
there are enough pies ready to fill
them. While this is happening,
someone else is labeling boxes with
names and flavor.
The second batch goes in the ovens
just as soon as the first hits the cooling
racks. By the time the second batch
comes out of the ovens the first batch
is being boxed, ready to go out the
door. This cycle repeats until all orders
are filled. It requires three people.
Customers start arriving around
noon and by 2 p.m. most of the pies
are on their way home for the holidays.
I take great satisfaction in watching
this happen, for I designed most of
the system that makes it possible.
Scammed in broad daylight.
The area around the pavilion where
wedding guests walk was crumbly and
dusty when dry, and sloppy muddy
when wet. I worried about it.
One Monday morning a pleasant
man knocked on our door and
announced he had just finished a
paving job and had a little black top
material left. Could we use it for $18 a
yard instead of the standard $36, just
slab was still ten to twenty inches too
high so nothing to do but chisel it out
with the skid loader. The surface to
be lowered was an old drive made of
packed limestone. It took an afternoon
of picking and pushing to remove the
gravel, then another half-day to peel
out enough soil to match the grade of
the concrete. When it was about where
it should be, I disked, shoveled, disked
some more and finally ran the old road
grader over it. Final treatment was to
cover it with fresh gravel, pack it in and
grade it again. It looks good.
When I was a kid, I spent hours in
This photo shows the rebuilt orchard sprayer, mentioned in an earlier column, on the new
shed floor. Restroom plumbing is visible in the right rear, pavilion on the left, at Mills Apple
Farm, Marine, Illinois. The treated concrete is supposed to be dust free and extra hard.
so he could get rid of it? He had his eye
on our unpaved driveway.
This is the classic approach and I
knew it but I fell for it anyway. By the
time they left, I was $5,400 shorter
and had very nice-looking blacktop
pavement in front of the pavilion,
except it was so soft a leaf blower
could make holes in the surface. It
was supposed to be sealed with hot
asphalt but what they used was not.
Had the weather been hotter it might
have solidified a little bit. As it is,
I think I will buy ordinary do-ityourself
asphalt pavement sealer and
see if we can salvage it.
The concrete base for the new apple
shed is special. We sealed it with a
high-tech sealer and hardener that
commercial concrete polishes use. I
learned about it when studying concrete
polishing procedures on the internet.
We used Consolideck LS, a
penetrating lithium silicate treatment
that reacts with the concrete to produce
insoluble calcium silicate hydrate
within the concrete pores. Treated
surfaces resist damage from water
and surface abrasion. The increased
surface hardness eliminates dusting and
simplifies maintenance, producing a
cleaner, healthier environment. I hope it
works. It cost $236 for five gallons. We
used 13 gallons.
Fun things to do on cold days.
Move dirt. The new slab sits below
a slight slope on one side. Dirty
water used to wash in and flood the
old shed and unfortunately, the new
concrete is not much higher. The first
remedy was to put in a French drain
along the side of the slab (a drain tile
the back yard, making roads with a
toy cast-iron grader for my dime store
toy trucks. Not much has changed,
except the power and price of the
machinery, and the age of the kid.
Christmas trees are coming on the
week before Thanksgiving. When
we ran out of choose-and-cut Scotch
Christmas trees, we began bringing
in Fraser firs from Appalachia. It is
easier at my age, to bring in trees
than to grow them ourselves, and
actually, Frasers are trees that are more
beautiful. They smell better too.
We have a good deal with our supplier.
Growers cut our trees on Saturdays, ship
them in refrigerated trucks on Sunday and
they arrive in Illinois Monday or Tuesday.
They immediately go on display in water
bowls or into water tanks. This keeps them
fresh and needles do not drop.
I do not think we have ever had a
complaint of needles dropping early
from folks who kept them in water in
their homes.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! VGN
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11/16/18 1:11pm
VGN | JANUARY 2019 | 39
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January 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of January 2019

January 2019 - 1
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