It’s the smell that overwhelms your senses when you enter Betsy Ingraham’s Apple Shack. The wonderful scents of fresh apples, frosty mornings and fall fill the little building just north of Davis Creek.
More than a century ago, the east side of Goose Lake was promoted as the fruit growing Mecca of northern California. Although these claims were somewhat exaggerated, apples became one of the primary fruit trees grown in the area. Some of the heirloom varieties that still grow and produce here are no longer easily found commercially.
Although she’s been selling apples from her orchard for 40 years, and her grandmother before that, since her retirement Ingraham decided to really market her apples and open an Apple Shack.
Sacks and boxes of apples line the room, a sign explains the strong points of each of the nine varieties of apples found in the shed and raised on her ranch. There are common varieties listed such as Red Delicious, Winesap, MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, and Winter Banana. The less common, older varieties are: Wismer - Good for eating, sauces, cider, and drying, a medium keeper; Wealthy - Good for cooking, pies, and sauce but not a good keeper; and Gloria Munda - Good for eating, pies and sauce, does not keep long.
Apple jam and jellies are stashed in a corner, fresh cider and dried apples are near the samples of the different varieties. Once in a while a fresh pie or two appear for sale, though they never last long. Nothing is wasted in the Apple Shack. Culls go for making cider, the squeezing excess goes to the cattle and pigs. Many people are still in search of the perfect apple pie. For Betsy she knows she’s found the key, it’s the apples.
“The apples from my 125-year old Gloria Munda trees are the key. You won’t find this variety in the stores, but they are wonderful. I got this recipe from my grandmother, Nell Hamersley. I make this pie all the time, but never measure anything exactly. So I guess I’d call this recipe “This Time Apple Pie.”
- 2 c. flour
- 2/3 c. Crisco or lard. Lard is better but some people don’t like to use it.
- 1 t. salt
- 6 T. cold water
- Mix, roll out and put in a pie pan.
- 6 c. Gloria Munda apples, sliced
- ¾ c. sugar
- 2 T. flour
- 1 t. cinnamon
- ½ t. nutmeg
- ¼ t. allspice
- 2 T. butter
- Mix dry ingredients and pour over sliced apples, dot with butter. Bake until done.
The Apple Shack is open all the time, but Ingraham is not always there. It’s run by the honor system. A sign explains the rules: “Hi, If no one is around to help you, please help yourself. All apples with a price on them are for sale, all others aren’t sorted yet. Leave money in jar. Thank you. Betsy.”
She says the honor system has worked so far and doesn’t believe anyone has stolen any apples. Betsy and her husband Fred live across the lane, so to get the full tour people can just knock on her door. A visit to this pioneer ranch located in the Northern Sierra Cascade and its orchard is a trip back in time, bringing back memories of a happy, more simple time. It is a place where the past is brought into the future through man’s long lasting love of apples.
The Apple House is located in Davis Creek on Highway 395.
History of the Apple House:
The Old Apple House was built in the early 1900s on what is now County Road 133B, about where Betsy’s house stands. Her grandparents Omar and Nell Hammersley bought this ranch in 1942. At that time there were about 10 acres of apple trees growing here. The main varieties were Gloria Munda, Wismer Dessert, and Winter Banana. The apple market was strong at that time and many of the apples were sold to Reno residents. Her grandparents bought wood slats from the Alturas Box factory and built their own apple boxes. The boxes held about 38 to 40 pounds of apples.
“After picking apples all day my grandma would sort, wrap and pack each apple into the boxes, nail on a lid and take them to the Davis Creek train depot to be shipped to Reno, Nevada. By 1953 the new Highway 395 was complete and the Apple House needed to be moved to its present location next to grandpa and grandma’s house right next to the new highway. With the help of grandma's sister and husband Johanna and John Scott, they carefully took the Apple House apart and moved it, rebuilt it, filled the walls with sawdust and were in business again." recalls Betsy.
"By the late 1950s the apple market began to lag, so a lot of the trees were torn out and pasture was planted. Grandma continued taking care of the orchard that was left, close to 125 trees, until her health caused her to stop. In 1970 I started taking care of the old trees again and sold apples from the Apple House until I had a new smaller Apple House built in 2004 back on County Road 133B. In 1981I planted 125 semi dwarf apple trees, I added some new varieties including Red Delicious, Wine sap, Macintosh, Yellow Delicious, and a Granny Smith. I now sell apples from the small Apple Shack by my house on County Road 133B. The 40 old apple trees still produce and are considered antique. They are well over 100 years old," stated Betsy Ingraham