Well, hello there my name is Warren and I was one of Mrs. Winchester’s farm hands. I worked here in the fruit drying shed where Mrs. Winchester dried the prunes that she grew right here on her estate. You see she just didn’t build here she had a working farm and during her first years here she purchased about 161 acres most of these were orchards filled with prune, apricot and walnut trees.
Since all our prunes were dried in the evaporator machine you can see we were pretty busy in here during the harvest time, let me explain how this evaporator worked. First the picked prunes were brought over to those two tables and sorted the bad prunes were tossed down the shoots and the good fruit was dipped in lye water. The lye water cracked the prunes skin so that they would dry easier then we’d place the fruit on wooden trays and loaded the trays into the metal racks on the evaporator. Mind you they were 160 trays per load and each tray held 20 pounds of fruit, that’s 1 1/2 tons a load!
It wasn’t all that easy to load this thing but by turning the crank over on the far side we could turn the rack to make it easier to load the trays of fruit into the evaporator then we fired up the heater underneath the shed ,it’s a wood burner; we get up to 200°. During the 30 hours it took to dry the fruit I had to rotate the racks several times so that the fruit will dry evenly.