Hartland Twp. — Spicer Orchards felt more like a school playground on Saturday, with kids and families everywhere and the sounds of raucous activity coming from the children’s area.
Available on site for visitors is playground equipment, a petting zoo, barbeque, kettle popcorn, honey and more for sale.
Inside the barn-like main building, the line moved quickly, tempting the dozens inside with the smells and sights of doughnuts, cider, and all manners of baked goods and apple-related food. Visitors ate their treats under the comfort of a canopy and some wandered into the wine tasting room.
Heading to the tasting room was Maryjane Theobald of Plymouth, who stopped by with her grandson. “The cider was good, the cinnamon doughnuts are excellent, it’s a beautiful day,” she said. “It’s very nice, I’m impressed.”
Owner Alan Spicer surveyed his busy store crowd, pleased with the turnout.
“They just like to walk and stroll the grounds,” said Spicer. “Lots of people are here.” He said next weekend will likely be his busiest. Many will come to do the activities like the corn maze, hayrides, you-pick pumpkins, as well as the cider and doughnuts. He said on their busiest weekends, they’ll have 50-100 employees on the grounds.
The staff, mostly comprised of teens, hustled to keep the line moving, stacking cider half-gallon jugs, applying cinnamon to doughnuts, and ringing up customers.
The automatic cider press worked hard in the back, the KA-CHUNCK repeating as apples were turned to cider and the fiber leftovers became fertilizer.
A few miles away in Tom Walker’s Grist Mill, more commonly known as the Parshallville Cider Mill, sunlight streamed through the windows onto the bare wooden planks of the shopping area. It felt like an old style general store, with apples, apple pies made on-site, maple syrup and honey for sale. A subdued, orderly line made their way in and out of the store.
“We come here every year, we love this building,” said Jon Withrow from Brighton, with wife Clare and sons. “It’s a great outdoor spot.” The family perused the shelves for something sweet before continuing to the cider and doughnut counter.
Outside the mill, families and couples roamed the expansive grounds, sat and watched the water wheel, spinning quietly through the runoff from The North Ore Creek.
On the patio, Michelle Martines and Larry Byard of Fenton sipped cider and ate doughnuts. “I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” he said, clad in Harley gear.
The atmosphere in Parshallville was tamer, with fewer small kids and more slow walks through the acres of property along the creek behind the mill. The shrieks of children were replaced by the white noise of the dam.
Depending on the day, artwork and custom made canvasses are sold out of a neighbor’s garage, and the Sundowners will play their brand of earthy rock.
“They like the quiet, serene feeling here,” said owner Sandra Detlefs. “Michiganders love their cider mills, they’ve adjusted this year.” Visitors at both mills saw higher prices in all apple goods, because of the weather that killed much of the Michigan apple crop. She said the mills themselves experienced sticker shock at their own supply costs. The good news was that the apples that did survive offered great taste for the pies and cider. “We’re very pleased,” she said. Her mill uses an old style rack and cloth press.
More good news is the great fall weather, which mill visitors and mill businesses have appreciated.
“People are still coming out, we’ve had great weather last weekend,” said Nick Diehl, of Diehl’s Orchard and Cider Mill in Holly. Diehl’s offers hayrides, mazes and a jungle gym. They also have around 20 pheasants to watch and a craft show this weekend. “This will be a busy weekend,” he said.
Cider mill information
10411 Clyde Rd., Fenton
Open 7 days a week
9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Parshallville Cider Mill
8507 Parshallville Rd., Fenton
9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
1479 Ranch Rd., Holly
Open 7 days a week
9 a.m. to 6 p.m.