Life is Like Apple Cider
Life is like apple cider. Though the recipe takes both the sweet and the sour, the finished drink satisfies the human thirst for fulfillment.
. . . Stephen Michael Gannon
The Sweet and the Sour
Priscilla and Keith Webb, Owners of Apple Lane Orchards, were long time good friends—but not always lovers or even best friends. You see, Priscilla’s best friend was Pearl, and Pearl was married to Keith Webb. Keith’s best friend was Gale—who was married to Priscilla. But the two couples, Priscilla and Gale, and Keith and Pearl, spent a lot of time together as close friends, and shared many wonderful memories. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Keith Webb married Priscilla’s best friend Pearl in 1967. Then in December of that same year, Priscilla married Gale who had five teen-aged children—which tells you a lot about the amount of grit Priscilla carries with her. But she became a wife, . . . and a mom, . . . and a homemaker. She shared with her new family, “We’re only going to eat one family meal. You will like it, but if I don’t please you tonight, I’ll probably please you tomorrow.”—which tells you something else about Priscilla—she knows how to win friends by caring about people. “Priscilla won the kids with a love language every teenager understands–called “good food.” Among so many other talents—Priscilla is an excellent cook.
Both couples grew up during the Great Depression”, and fruit was a scarcity. However, the United States was awash in grapes and consequently . . . raisins. And they, like so many others of that era, grew up with “raisin pie.” Priscilla and Pearl made it a regular treat to cook “raisin pie for the boys.” Early on Gale and Keith would add a special treat to the girls cooking ritual by driving way up to the old-west country town of Julian and buying fruit from the Julian Farmers Market. Their quarterly raisin pie making turned into lot of canning of fruit jams and jellies.
During this same time, Gale and Priscilla started and succeeded in a couple businesses. They bought a ranch in Del Mar and pursued ranching and raised thoroughbred race horses until Gale’s back began failing. They also founded two parking lots in downtown San Diego as Park and Ride Airport Parking which Gale and Priscilla managed together.
Clearly, the Park and Rides were set up to make money, but Priscilla and husband had a strong compassion for people, and felt strongly that everybody deserved a second chance. They hired many employees who had struggled with addictions, and were desperately looking for a second chance. The rule was, “We want you to have a second chance, but you won’t get a third.” During this time, their heart was always with the less fortunate, and Priscilla began raising funds for needy causes.
In 1985, Priscilla’s Husband, Gale, died—which broke the heart of Priscilla–who clung to her deep friendship with Pearl and Keith for support. Priscilla recalls those days of grief, when thankfully, Pearl was always calling and checking on her to make sure she was ok. Five weeks after Gale’s death, Priscilla remembers a very loving and sweet call from Pearl checking on her and encouraging her. That same night Pearl, Keith’s wife and Priscilla’s best friend, died – leaving Keith a widower and Priscilla without her lifelong confidant.
And The Sweet.
Priscilla limped along managing the Park and Ride business as best she could. One particularly frustrating day, when the business was in real need, Priscilla broke down and called Keith. “Hello” Priscilla spoke, “What are you doing?” Keith replied, “Lying here with a cup of coffee and a newspaper.” Priscilla demanded, “Get your butt down here and help me!” Keith did. The Park and Ride business flourished, and Keith and Priscilla’s love blossomed into something much more than friendship. They married in 1986.
Julian, and a Nourishing Drink.
Keith and Priscilla were looking for other properties for Park and Rides, when one of their “property scouts” called and told them of a property in Julian at auction that had been a Cal Trans granite pit for constructing the highway to Julian. They fell in love with the five-acre property, and bought it to build a house and retire in Julian. Priscilla gave Keith the precise information he needed to know to build the house. Priscilla’s direction, “I’ll tell you what I need, and you go build the house, and then you show it to me, and I’ll tell you what I don’t like.” Keith built a beautiful house in Julian for his compassionate, brilliant, and petite, but feisty bride.
Once in Julian, the Webbs knew they needed to keep busy and earn some income—after all, Priscilla was still involved in fundraising efforts for the poor and needy in a variety of non-profit groups. They remembered their fondness for the fruit from the Julian Farmer’s Market, and Keith decided he wanted to try his hand at farming. So they bought their first apple orchard across from the Julian High School, which was aptly named Apple Lane Orchard from Julian businessman, Tyler Johnson.
A Lifetime of Helping Those Less Fortunate
Other non-profits that the Webbs have supported and are supporting include the American Legion, Post 468, a local Julian and United States National Veteran’s club that raises money for veterans and local schools, for Julian graduating Seniors. Keith and Priscilla serve on the Board of Directors of the Volcan Mountain Foundation.
A view of Volcan Mountain from Apple Lane Orchards. Kieth and Priscilla are both on the Board of the Volcan Mountain Foundation which they have a great view from Apple Lane Orchards.
A Second Chance for At-Risk and Special Needs Kids.
The Webbs are heavily involved with the Angels of Aseltine School, an auxiliary group of caring supporters that raise money for the Aseltine School in San Diego, a private school for at-risk adolescent kids and special needs kids with disabilities.
Apple Lane Orchards Cider Mill
The Apple Lane Orchards previous owner, Tyler, recommended to the Webbs that they hire Thomas Hensley, a young Julian cider mill operator who had apprenticed under Julian Master Apple Farmer, Ray Meyer. Thomas was to manage the ranch and produce their Apple Lane Orchards cider. So they did—and Thomas Hensley became the Apple Lane Orchards operator and manager. Here is Thomas Hensley’s philosophy of cider production under the Apple Lane Orchard’s name on behalf of Kieth and Priscilla Webb.
At the Apple Lane Orchards processing facility in the historic old-west town of Julian, California, the apples are painstakingly selected for a balance between sweetness and tartness. Apple Lane Orchards blends different apples together to get the perfect combination—their own “SECRET” recipe.
Apple Lane Orchards usually works with a precise blend of six or more apple varieties. Interestingly, it takes about 13 pounds, or a third of a bushel of apples, to make one gallon of cider. Once the apples are harvested from trees in orchards during the fall, or are removed from a refrigerated warehouse during the off-season, they are brought to the Apple Lane manufacturing facility and transported by a conveyor to a hammer mill to be ground down into what is called pomace or mash.
This pulp mash or pomace is then transferred to the cider press and built up in layers into a block. Traditionally the method for squeezing the juice from the apples involves placing cheese cloths between the layers of pomace. These cheesecloth “patties” are built up using the pomace until there is a rack of ten or twelve layers.
The rack is then subjected to increasing degrees of pressure, until all the juice is squeezed from the pomace. This juice then flows into an open plastic vat awaiting “flash” pasteurizing.
Every part of the apple is salvaged with the pressed pulp from the juiced apples collected by astute farmers raising animals as winter feed.
“We serve nothing but the best apples and varieties.” says Thomas Hensley and we are licensed and certified by the FDA and have implemented current Good Manufacturing Processes (cGMP) in the manufacture and distribution of our cider. In fact, he adds with a laugh, “You might say our apples love each other and bless and strengthen the lives they nourish.” Apple Lane Orchards and the Webbs have been a huge valuable force in my life, and I am thankful for the opportunities that have come my way because of them.