Not too long ago, we took a jaunt to Cooperstown. Along the route is a wonderful little cider mill, with a homey, small-town, small-business atmosphere. The cider mill is in Fly Creek, NY, a tiny little hamlet nestled between the glorious Upstate hills. It’s a very, very small area. Believe it or not, Fly Creek is on the map. Just don’t blink going through, or you’ll miss it.
I have no idea where the funny name came from. Maybe because it is so small?! Many creeks and towns in Upstate are named for their original owners and not their characteristics (that is, Fly Creek was more likely to be named because of Mr. Fly than because of the pesky insects. For example, the Catskill area was owned by Dutch farmer Kaat, and “skil” is Dutch for “creek” and it later morphed into Catskill.) But then again, this creek is very small, but also very rapid, so perhaps the pesky insect is the reason.
No, actually– I just looked it up and I was correct with my first hypothesis: Fly Creek gets its name from the early Dutch settlers who had named this swampy valley “vlie.” This became “fly.” Haha!
Fly Creek is a short drive north from Cooperstown and it is the home of the wonderful Fly Creek Cider Mill (see www.flycreekcidermill.com). The mill has had its shares of ups and downs since it was founded in 1856, but it is buzzing with business now! The place was packed!
The Cider Mill is a combination cider mill (duh), gift shop, petting zoo, and museum. We loved everything and took advantage of everything!
The first thing we saw when we parked were the sprightly orange pumpkins, smiling scarecrows, and crispy-dry corn stalks. White Christmas lights blinked merrily and the the heavenly smell of freshly baked apple tarts and pies assaulted our senses. We floated to the door with our noses in the air.
There are a few buildings scattered all over the place. The one we entered is cram-packed with a zillion knick-knacks and baked goods. It is two-storeys, so we took our time browsing through room after room of gifts and trinkets. Prices weren’t too bad and we bought some adorable little stuffed animals– a skunk and a raccoon (my kids are into indigenous animals of NY these days). However, the polo shirts were prohibitively expensive ($65!) and to my daughter’s chagrin, we didn’t get one.
We walked upstairs to the back of the building and entered a cozy room with cider press displays and a television playing a video of the making of cider. It was a very good video and we watched the entire thing. The process of cleaning, smushing, and extracting the apple juice is fascinating. I learned that apple mush with its juice smashed out of it is called “cheese.” This cheese is collected and loaded onto a tractor and spewed back onto the land as fertilizer.
After exploring the gift shops, we pressed our way back through the crowds to go outside again. There was a lot to explore. The kids made a beeline straight for the pond and the animals there. Guinea hens and turkeys pecked at the corn kernels around our feet. There were innumerable ducks and geese everywhere. They expected corn from us so they were very friendly.Vending machines filled with corn had been placed at strategic places and the geese cloistered around these spots.
We saw a very funny looking type of goose that we called “King George” geese. They have fluffy tufts of white feathers on their heads. These fluffy feathers look like the white wigs that kings of England wore in the 18th century. The King George geese were more aggressive than the other geese, and seemed to “lord” over the flock. Thus, King George geese they were dubbed.
The actual name is the White-Crested Goose. What zoologist named them that?! Boooor-ing.
We also saw a beautiful domesticated turkey in a pen.
It is true that Benjamin Franklin had desired the turkey to be our national bird. I rather agree with him. Of the choice of the eagle versus the turkey, Franklin wrote in a letter:
For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly; you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk; and, when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him, and takes it from him. With all this injustice he is never in good case; but, like those among men who live by sharping and robbing, he is generally poor, and often very lousy. Besides, he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America, who have driven all the kingbirds from our country.
…[T]he turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours… He is, besides (though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that) a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.
I think Franklin made a good case! However, he was serving as ambassador in France during this time (1784) and had no voice in the decision for choosing a national bird.
We continued to stroll the grounds as there was still much to see and enjoy. There were numerous displays of old cider-making tools and farming tools.
It is interesting to see that the machine styles have changed only a little since their invention. I mean, how many different ways can you smush apples?
We loved the old and new tractors. I love their bright colors.
All along our walk, we saw interactive signs that informed us of the history of the Cider Mill or the fowl that wandered about. The history of the mill is a typical Upstate NY story of so many 150-year old businesses: it began with harnessing Upstate’s plentiful and rapidly-moving creeks and streams; and business success waxed and waned with the uncertain Upstate economies over the years.
I’d heard the Mill suffered with the horrific flooding that devastated parts of Upstate last summer (my property included). The Mill seems to have recovered well, and business seemed to be booming.