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The Cider Journey - Creating a new local drink!
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CasperF



Joined: 17 Dec 2012
Posts: 84



PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2013 6:59 pm    Post subject: The Cider Journey - Creating a new local drink!  Reply with quote

Hey all,

I've just begun an exciting project where I am attempting to create a new cider drink from my own planted apple orchard. This is a long term project that will involve all aspects of the process. From starting with an empty field, preparing soil, planting trees, nurturing the trees and then harvesting (in years to come). Finally finishing with pressing the fruit and all the joys, trials and errors involved with making a decent drop of cider juice.

I've been keeping a blog on the adventure but I thought it might be a great idea to share it with people here, for enjoyment and feedback. Hopefully along the way we can learn a bit more about the delicious drink!
http://ciderjourney.blogspot.co.uk/

The first post:



I've enjoyed supping cider for many years.

It's that seemingly endless blend of apples which attracts me.
The depth of flavours which capture seasons and dance on the tongue reflecting the past summers and golden autumns.


Well, I had to have a go at making this crafted drink myself. So, in 2012 I found a field to start planting with trees and began an amazing journey discovering our diverse range of apples with an aim to create a new and unique cider.

A local artisan delight. The cider journey begins....
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A journey to create a new local artisan cider - http://ciderjourney.blogspot.co.uk/
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12Bore



Joined: 07 Oct 2011
Posts: 8153


Location: Paddling in the Mersey

PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2013 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking very good, will be following with interest!      
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CasperF



Joined: 17 Dec 2012
Posts: 84



PostPosted: Sat May 25, 2013 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks!

Here's a bit more about the background of the farm:




My childhood was spent on my grandfathers farm in Wiltshire, often visiting every weekend and helping to bale crops and milk cows. He had a beautiful herd of Jersey cows which provided rich and creamy milk to local distribution depots but not without myself and my brother taking a sip when he wasn't looking. The milk quotas became daft during the late eighties and early nineties and dairy farming on this scale was difficult to match the larger establishments so the herd shrank and the farm was kept barely ticking along.

When he passed on the farm remained in the family but never produced on the same standard as before.
It has since existed as pony paddocks and small-time hay crops for the past 15 years until recently when I thought about exploring the idea of producing a local craft cider from my own stock of apple trees.

Orchards within Wiltshire have declined 95% since the late 1940's and it is even rarer to find an orchard utilised for the production of cider. Sure the county had cider, but historical accounts state this had been from apple fruit of varying varieties and qualities, a more 'scrumpy-ish' type of drink. It seems that the local folk were not looking for single variety drinks but were happy with farmhouse cider which was given freely as part-payment for agriculture labour after a hard day on the farm. I'm hoping to produce a range of ciders which explore the complex flavours blended from specific heritage apples. I may even attempt a Normandy style cider, low alcohol percentage but absolutely delicious.

The field (pictured above) is around an acre in size, a perfect area to establish an initial orchard to see if this idea is achievable. Not too big, nor small. It is my starting point and I assumed I would simply select some trees, plant them in the ground and await the rewards.....well, this is a journey of discovery and I have since discovered that my initial approach required a little more preparation.........
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A journey to create a new local artisan cider - http://ciderjourney.blogspot.co.uk/
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bodger



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 32894


Location: Ever so slightly around the bend.

PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brilliant Casper  Keep it coming.
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CasperF



Joined: 17 Dec 2012
Posts: 84



PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2013 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers Bodger, I also followed your own cider farm journey since last year and it's great to get some tips along the way (I may even be in touch if I get a bit 'stuck'!)


Here's a new post (From work carried out back in February):



It's begun!


Work has started clearing the hedges surrounding the orchard field. A few years of neglect has meant a bank of blackthorns have self suckered beyond the boundary. These hardy trees provide stunning blossom and fruit perfect for mixing with gin, but alas, there's just a few too many which are clogging the ditch. Upon clearing these prickly specimens I uncovered a badger sett which has been left alone, I'll be sure to see some of the residents from it over the next few months during dusk. Perhaps they can help gather fruit in Autumn?





When I started out on the cider journey I discovered that many similar artisan producers began to appear out of the woodwork. This small, but growing list of crafters have been an immense inspiration and fountain of knowledge to me, even in these early days of the project.

What attracted me the most was the willingness to share ideas and the sound advice given for many aspects of setting up an orchard. There hasn't been any 'special secret recipes' or guarded methods that you may find in other industries. It reminds me of groups of people who came together for a common cause, be it the jam makers, willow basket weavers or hay makers.

The initial stages of the orchard could have gone wrong without the input from these friendly groups and individuals. I underestimated the need for careful planning and consideration to the field, the crucial element to produce good quality cider apples. Since these conversations I now have a head crammed with everything 'apple' and my focus is purely on the dark stuff, the worms paradise....the soil.


Barters Nursery - Providers of grafted apples


This didn't stop me getting carried away though! I've already visited a local nursery who graft apple trees to order and have given a request for 40 local trees. These are in the process of being grafted onto suitable root stocks and will be available at the end of summer, ample time for me to prep the ground.
So, thankyou to Barters Nursery in Chapmanslade, Wiltshire, these trees are the first step to realising a dream.

Next time: Cutting the grass ready for a vintage ploughing display....
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A journey to create a new local artisan cider - http://ciderjourney.blogspot.co.uk/
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CasperF



Joined: 17 Dec 2012
Posts: 84



PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Today came a huge milestone in the development of the orchard field, we began ploughing!



A neighbour known to me as Dave was on hand to provide the equipment, in the form of a beautiful old tractor from the 1960's called a McKormick International. This old beast has seen many years of ploughing and as Dave explained also responsible for many ploughing competitions and had passed from his ownership years ago only to return by fate some time later.

We set to marking out the field which would be divided in two to allow for a central access strip upon a natural ridge.
Three coloured posts were positioned in the corners and middle, the tractor was lined up and with pinpoint accuracy and the first cut into the soil was made.

This was amazing, the field was never cut like this before in recent memory and I was eagerly waiting to see what treasures were unearthed.

Worms mostly.....

But, absolutely no stones what so ever, just lovely rich soil with shades of sandy parts, good stuff!



The hum of the tractor, smell of oil and the the distinctive 'shhtiiickk' sound of soil being cut and turned was absorbing. I attempted a run myself, slotting the tractor in gear and slowly releasing the clutch I created a expertly guided wonky furrow.
Dave was eager to jump back on and 'straighten the bugger out', a perfectionist no doubt.



For many years livestock roamed these fields, leaving dung and slowly changing the characteristics of the soil, making it more acidic - which is not ideal for growing apple trees.
The low laying land by nature leans towards a more acidic type loamy soil which has a thick matting of grass, perfect for the cows that were here before me.

To make the land into an orchard I will need to add lime to the soil to raise the PH levels. Correct application of nutrients and fertilizer make for better quality, healthy trees, though cider apples do tend to be better when there's little intervention.




A comprehensive test from the scientist boffins in Kent told me the correct levels to apply and over a set number of years.

As soon as the soil is settled I will manage any new growth from the grass and prepare the next stage:

Rotovating.

So, more toys to play with....
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bodger



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
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Location: Ever so slightly around the bend.

PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bdooly hell! He ploughs a straight furrow.
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bodger



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 32894


Location: Ever so slightly around the bend.

PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bdooly hell! He ploughs a straight furrow.

Have a look at this thread that I started this afternoon. It certainly gives you room for thought as to what might be achievable.

http://overthegate.myfreeforum.org/about29413.html
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CasperF



Joined: 17 Dec 2012
Posts: 84



PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2013 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great link Bodger, thanks!

Dave the tractor chap is a great ploughman, I think he's done quite well in local championships. There was a lot of tweeking and adjustment going on as he ploughed, when I had a go all I could do was concentrate on steering!

It's a very inspirational read for sure. I like to follow the history of the smaller cider makers, such as yours and I regularly check back from time to time on your older posts to get ideas. It'll be great to hear how your own brewing is going.

I feel this project is early days yet, but all going in the right direction.

Tomorrow I'm heading to the field to do a bit of rotavating with a slightly smaller tractor we've recently brought especially for this project.
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CasperF



Joined: 17 Dec 2012
Posts: 84



PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The ploughing we undertook in the last few weeks has settled down, each furrow began sprouting pasture grass but has since been knocked back a little.



The next step was to be rotavating, but just for the time being a few new opportunities arrived:

A few years back I went on a one day cider making course at The Orchard Centre in Hartpury, where as a hobby booze maker I learned how to correctly manage the juice I had pressed. In recent times the orchard centre has developed a thorough and expanded course in creating a cider primarily as a product for smaller first-time producers.

I'm going to sign up....quick as a flash.

This 5 day course explores many aspects of orchard management which will no doubt help greatly in getting this idea of the ground.



From planning and planting the course will ensure the apples I grow will be treated well. It's not cheap, but will be a once in a lifetime expense. I've already begun the long process of exploring grant opportunities for this venture and hope to secure further funding for ideas to involve local communities within the orchard. I really want to provide a space for people to come and learn where their fruit comes from, the nature, ecology and provenance of fruit and drink, (mostly the drink!)

So, that's the plan for the future, in the meantime I'll concentrate on the land and making it sure it is ready for the delivery of the first apple trees.


Community Projects - year long interest:

Fortunately the seasonal orchard calendar lends itself well to community events throughout the year:


January it is the Wassail.
February and March there's early bud burst
April and May provide stunning blossom displays and throughout the summer months the slowly ripening of delicious fruit begins.
September through to December the numerous varieties of fruit are ready for picking and eating/pressing


It is the autumn where the true magic begins, and this is a moment I savor in years to come where all this work provides that one fine apple, nestled in the palm of my hand.


An access strip remains through the middle of the field.  We can drive vehicles and pick fruit easily from here in years to come. It also provides access to the lovely stream at the base of the orchard.

Other great news!!

I have managed to find another parcel of land to plant some more apple trees on. The owner is looking for a corner of his field to be filled with an orchard, though this time it will be on dwarfing roostock. The land is next to a working engineering firm and the idea is to provide fruit for the workers to enjoy and to use the rest of the space for

.....The Cider Journey continues....
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12Bore



Joined: 07 Oct 2011
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Location: Paddling in the Mersey

PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating stuff, please keep us updated
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CasperF



Joined: 17 Dec 2012
Posts: 84



PostPosted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Advice from the masters:

I had been putting today off for a while, hoping that our efforts at ploughing a few weeks back were not in vain. I was fearful that the clods of turned earth hadn't settled enough to starve out the pasture grass beneath and there would be tufts spurting out from every crevice.

Also, there was the task of strimming the grass edges to tackle. but thankfully the blackthorn I removed back in February has only regrown a little.



Today was an extremely hot day, even at 9am. Though I was very pleased to see that my initial fears were eased as the grass had died back really well, leaving just lovely loamy soil.
I kitted up with my strimmer and took to removing a 2 metre section of grass from the edges of the ploughed area. The grass that remained was incredible, it had so many species within it and became apparent that this was the very reason that my Grandad had used Jersey cows here for grazing. There was a vast amount of buttercups too.

Planning for the apple trees:

This info is a bit techy, but may be useful to others who consider planting their own cider orchard:

After strimming I decided to lay out a rough plan of the locations for the apple trees. I've decided on 8 rows of trees, containing about 20 to 25 trees in each row. These rows are spaced at 3.5 to 4 metres in all directions.

With bamboo canes and tape measure in hand I paced out the site and stuck the canes in at intervals.


Dosage rates as suggested by Brogdale in Kent



This was my guide to add some lime to the exposed soil prior to rotavating. The soil test I had done in December last year from the Brogdale Orchard Nursery in Kent has given me an indication of the amount needed to apply. At first I was unsure the best method to do this and settled on ploughing first, then adding lime and other fertilisers, followed by tree planting and then re-seeding with orchard friendly grass.

I've received some excellent advice from John Worle in Herefordshire (http://www.johnworle.co.uk/) who suggested that the lime can be added in stages during planting (into the hole) and then afterwards around the tree over the following 3 years.
This should be easier than attempting to add lime to the entire field, which could be costly in both time and dough.

I must add that preparing the land at this time of year is unusual We would normally start late winter or early spring but due to the bad weather (and waiting for the ebay orders to come through!) we have done all of this a little later.

This coming Tuesday I'll be rotavating the soil, to level it out and then this will be watched over for the next few months until it's ready to plant up in December/January time.

In a few weeks time I'm going to the nursery to see how my grafted trees are coming on, I can't wait, It's like having 40 new children!
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12Bore



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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CasperF



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In recent months there's been a large amount of field management in order to get the land into good shape for the trees this autumn. All that is left now to complete is a bit of rotavating on the recent furrows we ploughed. This will take the high soil ridges from the deep plough cut and create a finer tilth. I've added the initial amount of lime required with a view to apply more during the planting season nearer winter.

We tried out a new tractor bought especially for the cider farm, a robust Yanmar. It's been through its paces but still delivers and coupled with the new rotavator deck it's making light work of turning the soil. Locally is the derelict farm with outbuildings where we hope to house the new tractor.




The brook calmly passes by the orchard just along the tree line above


I've turned my attention to the hedgerows and surrounding land in recent days. The ground has remained completely organic since maps have began, with no chemical intervention and alteration. This has resulted in a vast diversity of species within the grasses and wild flowers that have popped up during these early summer  weeks. I hope to identify these species, with the aid of a fantastic book by Roger Phillips.

At one end of the orchard field is a brook that runs through one edge of the plot and doubles back to the site of an old mill, now occupied by a dogs home, they always accompany me with barking and howling when I visit.

I intend to use this space (photo above) as an area where there could be a camp site, somewhere to relax after tending to the orchard and to enjoy the fruits of my labour. I'm hoping to acquire a traditional shepherds hut for this purpose. I'll clear the access to the stream at some point and create a perfect spot to relax and contemplate everything apple.....with a drop of juice in hand!




In the meantime I need to consider my options for the hedgerow. The field has hedges on all sides but one and this particular edge (photo) suffers from a particular brisk wind in winter, which is no good for apple trees. The original tenant had a go at hedgelaying which as resulted in some new growth this year and I hope to add more to this with some additional planting. I've received some advice to avoid Hawthorn as a hedge as his could be a host to fireblight, a seriously damaging disease for apple trees. Instead it will be a Blackthorn, Spindle and Maple mix with a few patches of Holly thrown in. I hope to use some crab apples too within the hedge as these help to pollinate all the varying groups of apple trees.

Groups of apple trees you ask? I'll explain more later in the year, not so straight forward as planting a tree in the ground!
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12Bore



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Location: Paddling in the Mersey

PostPosted: Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the update

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