Well, we've been busy busy busy, pressing every apple in sight, so apologies for not keeping you up to date.
We made our last pressing yesterday. A mammoth 6 hour stint. We have produced a grand total of 1,711 bottles this year, almost double what we did last year.
Today we had fun moving the sheep, ha ha!
First we struggled to get them all into the pen for loading, they had gone in beautifully yesterday on the trial run, of course.
Next, the trailer wouldn't behave and it took twice as long to back it into the gateway a usual.
Then we almost lost the sheep back into the field, as the gatepost collapsed in the morass that used to be solid ground. With a lot of colourful words we remedied that and loaded the sheep.
And just to top it all, when we got back to the barn and tried reversing the trailer toward it, the ground was so wet that as it's on a slope, we just couldn't get the trailer to back, it kept sliding precariously toward the house, so we had to resort to beginner farmer tactics and make a 100 yard race with the hurdles.
But they are all now ensconced in the barn, snug a warm, ready to be sorted for the slaughter house tomorrow. Yum yum, roast lamb for Christmas dinner.
Tuesday 22 September 2009
I stopped by at the Greedy Goose, a new country pub created out of an old one where the road to Moreton in Marsh from Chipping Norton meets the road down to Stow on the Wold. Having a bottle of the Worcester Pearmain in the Pick Up, I thought I would see if they liked it. They did. The manager, bar manager and several others all had a try and declared it delicious. I explained a bit about our philosophy and I think it will do well with them since they are offering something beyond the ordinary. www.thegreedygoosemoreton.co.uk if you want to check out their website. Tania and the kids bottled another 78 today, Cox's and more Worcesters. Newton Wonder is in the settling tanks, ready to be bottled tomorrow.
Sunday 20 September 2009
Another Farm sale was held on Saturday, this time at Cherry Lodge farm, Iron Acton. Lisa Baber and her husband had a farm shop there and were giving up. They had been buyers of our apple juice, so it was a pity, particularly as they had not been going for more than about 4 years. Being sold were all the pigs, sheep, fowls and all the sundries. Top price was for an almost new New Holland Tractor with grass tyres and a loader. We only bought two lots. One, a pile of white side plates, cutlery, plastic bags and the remants of their coffee and tea club for £18 and the other five lots of wine racks which are destined to hold our stocks od apple juice, down in the constant temperature of the air raid shelter. When I got these racks home, I worked out that they would hold 1,300 bottles. At £120, that was a bargain and one of the few of those around that day. About 11p per bottle, it works out at, which is OK, I'd say.
Friday 18 September 2009
I went to a farm sale this evening with my wife Tania; it was at Bushes Farm, Horton, near Chipping Sodbury. The farmer, John Bishop, had given up milking in 1997 and had started an Angus X suckler herd which today was being dispersed, along with all the machinery and sundries, wherein lies most of the appeal of these otherwise sad events. There were wardrobes and fire extinuishers, old chairs and cycles in the dark silage shed among junk hauled out from musty corners deposited years long ago. Then came the cattle, 21 hombred cows and heifers all with their calves at foot followed by a handsome bull, the head of his small harem. The first two in the ring were knocked down to Mr Hendy, a local cattle dealer from whom I bought calves many years ago. They made £730 and £740 each. Then lot 503 which was a beautiful red shorthorn cow with her shorthorn calf. I had brought the cheque book, but more in hope than expectation. She made £790 and went off to a Mr Guilder who bought another a few lots later. The bull made £1,130 which seemed cheap to me, but I am out of touch with prices these days.
Then , out into the sale field via the barns we all streamed to see the collection of troughs, stakes, tractors and trailers go under the hammer. I had seen a must have sheep race, the appeal of which faded as it rose above £400. Not for one farmer, though tracking the rig up until it reached £800 at which point his rival bid £820. Visibly annoyed the first put down a bid of £1,000 which stopped the proceedings in its tracks, something I have never seen before. He clearly wanted it badly. I let a bale trailer go at £80 and a muck fork for the MF80 loader slip away at £60 and immediately regreted my caution. Then I bought two old troughs for £38 and wondered if I had paid too much. Its the way of things, with these sales, you see. Top bid went on a Massey Fergusson 390 tractor with a Quicke loader which made £8,800. A fair days work for Voyce Pullin the auctioneers who sped through the lots as quick as I have ever seen at a dispersal sale. I am glad we went. This has been a happy farm, I thought as we left the sale field and I felt prividelged to have been there at the end.
Thursday 17 September 2009
The first of the Bramleys was bottled today. Strictly speaking this is a bit early, but its good to have a selection and the other sharp variety we have -Lord Debys - that we produced first are already running low. So four tubs of Bramleys were gathered, but almost all had some damage. This meant each had to be cut and quartered to remove all the bruising and any insect or grub damage. Out of 160lbs of apples only six went into the mill as they were. That's not six lbs, but six APPLES. It took a backbreaking 14 hours between us adults and three children to prepare the fruit and an hout to wash it. This is why organic fruit is SO much dearer than regular stuff which has been bathed in chemicals, and whilst apples from commercial farms like the Bramleys opposite look like beauty queens, their good looks come at a price; chemicsl residues. This is why we uise only apples from our own orchard or from similar remant orchards where we know no chemicals have been used. The work is harder, but pure means pure in my book.
Monday 14 September 2009
Eating lunch, out in the garden, there was a loud crack and the ground shuddered. I looked up,and in the space in the sky where the leaves of the whispering poplar across the lane once chattered, there was now just an open scar. On Sunday last, a large branch had come down across the road and had been quickly cleared. Declared unsafe, the majestic old tree took a further week to succumb to the chainsaw, the woodmen nimbly working up and across her outstetched arms, trimming and slowly reducing the canopy. And the lane is quiter now than it was and poorer for her passing. Here is a photo of the grand old lady, benovently inspecting our efforts last year, cutting apples prior to pressing. Sad is the song of the saw
The first crate of juice went up to Tortworth Farm shop today, 10 Worcester Pearmain and 5 Lord Derby. The Worcesters are from our own trees, and they are pictured left. These are half standard trees, we think. They are certainly much smaller than the standard trees in the main orchard, behind the point where this photo was taken. The Lord Derbys are from an old remnant orchard in Cowship Lane in Cromhall, 5 miles away. We can be certain that these trees are as chemical free as our own, because until a few years ago the cottage which sat among these old trees was owned by Mrs Hobbs, ex Postmistress to these villages, during the last war and she worked her garden and the orchard the old fashioned way. We now know the new people who were happy to accept a crate of juice made from their own apples by us in return for the remaining apples which made the juice that is now on the Tortworth Farm shop shelves
Saturday 12 September 2009
Marrow and Fresh Ginger Chutney
9lb Marrow peeled and deseeded
1 and 1/2 lb onions
1 and 1/2lb cooking apples
1 and 1/2lb sultanas
1 and 1/2 oz fresh root ginger
6 tsp pickling spices
12oz golden Demerara sugar
3 pints cider vinegar
This made 19lb chutney, bottled. It looked great and tasted delicious. The orginal recipe we were given was for a third of these quanities so if you have less marrows, use proportionally fewer ingredients. Wine vinegar can be used too.
Put the marrow into a colander and liberally sprinkle with salt. Leave over a pan for a few hours to draw the water off
Put the marrow and all other ingredients except the sugar and the vinegar into a large pan; a preserving pan is ideal. You could put the ginger and spices into a muslin bag and remove that before bottling but we like them in the chutney.
Add a third of the vinegar and bring slowly to the boil. Boil gently until the mixture is thick, gradually adding more vinegar as yuo go.. Stir frequently to stop the chutney sticking. Add the sugar stirring continually until the sugar has dissolved. It may take a couple of hours to or more to reach the right consistency, but don't despair, it will thicken.
Once you have the correct consistency, remove the pan from the ehat and ladle the chutney inot clean jars. We use honey jars. Put on the lids and leave to cool before labeling.
Friday 11 September 2009
Our new honey bee colony seem to be thriving. I see the bees out and about wherever I go in the garden or the orchard. At the moment they are goiong crazy for the flowers on the sedum. The picture opposite shows why we got them though, to help pollinate the apple blossom in the orchard in May. They came free as part of an iniative by South Gloucestershire beekeepers who are offering a free hive, colony and mentoring, to help establish new colonies in new locations. Honey bees have been badly hit by collapsing colony syndrome, verroa mite and wet weather, plus the cocktail of nasty chemicals that are used these days. If ours stay in on or home ground they will be Ok, or so I keep telling them.... Meanwhile we are making Marrow Chutney, having at last finished batch after batch of damson chutney, jam and cheese. Yes there is such a thing as Damson Cheese, honestly
Wednesday 9 September 2009
These are the Worcester pearmain apples, which some say have a noticeable strawberry flavour
They are generally small, so a lot have to be picked to fill a tub, but they do smell delicious and taste fantastic just off the tree, or in juice. They don't keep well generally, which is one of the reasons you don't see them much in supermarkets these days, and for that reason we try and clear the trees and juice them quickly. The wasps love these, for the sugar i suppose and its amusing to see them drunk on the juice stumbling about. Not yet beens tung this year, but theres still plenty of time
Its a beautiful day, there is a heavy dew in the orchard gradually going as the sun climbs higher. We have already begun picking Worcester Pearmain apples, one of the earliest varities and a very sweet one, which all kids seem to like. One tank full has been bottled and the results are on the kitchen table ready to go. In fact some have gone already to the men utting down a massive old black Poplar, just across the lane. They cam back for some more yesterday and said that they had nver tasted apple juice like it. Praise indeed!