Sunday, 27 April 2014

Rain at last. And leeks.

Despite the screen on my phone last Sunday, I had to wait till Thursday before we had any appreciable rain. This was our first rain for almost three weeks and was needed. After the wettest winter on record, there is still plenty of moisture just under the surface.
However, the top layer is where the seedlings need to get a hold. With the delightful weather we had during my whole two week Easter break, I was pretty much up to date with everything except rotavating the spare veg patch and getting the first carrot seeds in. The only other outstanding job was a second sowing of Broad Beans and planting my last bag of onion sets. One small problem with the last couple of jobs though - they'd gone missing!
This problem was easily solved when I eventually looked inside a basket hanging in the lobby. But the rotavating and seed sowing were at the behest of the weather.
So, when the rain did finally arrive, I was straight out on the rotavator. The soil in the Spare Veg Patch is clayier and lumpier than the rest of  my veg patch. Without rain, cricket ball lumps of earth just travel round and round in the rotavator tines, emerging completely unscathed. But three hours after work on Thursday and another four on Friday had the ground looking much better, even if my arms and torso felt as if they'd taken a thorough bashing!

The rain prompted the parsnip seeds into action too. Always slow to germinate, but they always seem to come good in the end. Some very careful weeding will be required though as all manner of seedlings manage to come up before the parsnips.
And the potatoes are leaping into action too, helped by the ducks who insist on flattening the ridges. Luckily nights are warm at the moment so I can ridge them back up at my leisure. At least the ducks keep the slugs at bay. Reports from other veg growers suggest a bad year for them, but as yet I'm not seeing it, fingers crossed. So if it's down to the ducks, then a few flattened potato ridges are a price well worth paying.
Anyway, here are the Red Duke of Yorks.
 
And finally... the first leeks have gone outside. I grow them in half seed trays in the polytunnel. They always seem to germinate easily and once they are about six to nine inches tall (not quite the pencil thickness that everyone seems to recommend) I move them outside, planting them 9 inches apart in each direction. Planting leeks is a bit of a ritual. I make a hole as deep as I can with a dibber. Stopping the soil from instantly falling back in is somewhat of an art.
I then drop in the seedlings. I don't bother trimming the roots or the leaves and it seems to work very well. I then water the seedlings in and just allow the holes to fill up on their own. I always grow Musselburgh, which serves me well but is quite a late variety. So this year the first leeks in are Jolant, one of the earliest.
 
I planted a few rows of carrots. Purple Haze, White Satin, Ideal Red and Chantennay for a nice colourful mixture. I also sowed some Resistafly and some Flyaway. Hopefully they'll avoid carrot fly, even if the others don't. Lastly, a row of Autumn King and a row of Early Nantes - just for a bit of bulk standard carrotage.
As soon as they start coming through I'll sow the next lot.
 
And I'm still hoping that a few more of those April showers fall on Swallow Farm.

POPCORN!


Last year I grew Strawberry Red Popcorn. I grew it in the polytunnel, so that it wouldn't cross with my supersweet corn outside. It went rampant in there, but come autumn the field mice abandoned the surrounding crops and moved in. Only the lucky few cobs survived the onslaught.
 
But they were very good looking.
 


There was, however, one very BIG disappointment.
They didn't pop! I tried everything - Microwave, saucepan, whole, kernels stripped from the cob, oil, butter.... But not a pop.
I wrote a blog post. Something about Poppycock, I seem to recall.
In fact, it's here if you want to look.

Fast forward six months and April's gathering of the Fenland Smallholders Veg Group. I had asked people to talk about one unusual veg they had grown and I was trying to decide what I would talk about when I remembered the popcorn kernels which we had kept in brown paper bags in the kitchen.

I popped one in the microwave, literally... it POPPED! Not perfectly, but it most definitely popped.

After some experimentation, I found that the kernels were now easy to strip from the cob and the best way to pop them was in a hot saucepan with a little oil.

 
It went down very well at the Veg Group, especially the one tossed in our very own honey which Sue collected just a couple of days before.
 
So, having almost given up on this novelty crop, it had suddenly turned into a success story. I checked back on the website from which I purchased it and it was not a F1 hybrid. So I stripped the kernels off a cob and set them to chit. This is a method I have adopted for germinating sweetcorn, since I can't reliably sow it direct in the ground (mice and voles) and it has a tendency to just rot when sown in modules - probably my fault, but a common problem.
Normal sweetcorn set to chit.
I sandwich the kernels between sheets of damp
kitchen roll, cover with a propagator lid and place
 in the warmth of the polytunnel to sprout.
I then drop them into modules to grow,
as it's too early for them to go outside yet and they need
a long enough growing season to ripen properly.

After a couple of days just about every seed had sprouted.
The long white sprout is actually the root.
You can just see the green stem started to grow on some of these.
I reckon that each small cob must have about 300 kernels on. That's about £7 worth of seed. If only I could sell them all for that.

Monday, 21 April 2014

What happened to the Easter chick?

It seems like an appropriate time of the year to talk about birth and death and the cycle of life and all that.
I'll start with some very sad news. For within the last six weeks we have lost two of our original hens. Still, compared to farmed hens, they had a good innings. Honey and Hazel both succumbed to old age. I have learned not to get upset when a chicken dies, but that doesn't mean it's not a sad moment. And more especially since these were two of the originals.

Honey.
In her younger days
Hazel.
During last year's moult, feathers in a right mess. 
 
But with the passing of old hens comes the birth of new chicks. Elvis, the last of the originals, is now showing her latest brood the big, bad outside world.

They are a bit bigger now than in these photos and have grown into quite an audacious little bunch.
But then yesterday, as this post was in its preparation, I just happened to noticed that they now number just six. I don't know how, but at some point between Saturday late afternoon and Sunday afternoon one of Elvis's chicks has had one adventure too many.

As I write this, there is a pile of feathers outside the back door. But its nothing to do with that missing chick. For some of Elvis's previous offspring met their maker too yesterday. The two Cocky lookalikes had grown old enough to challenge Spike, but not skilful enough to defend themselves very well. And the two cockerels from the next hatch, so several months younger and not really big enough for the pot, had grown up into very problematic teenagers, challenging the older males and constantly harassing the ladies. They all had to go.

So, the chickens must have wondered why they were being kept in a little later than usual on Easter Sunday. It was tricky enough catching them when they were confined to their houses, let alone if I'd had to chase them down first. While they were crowing inside their houses, the pot was put on to boil, the table top and broomstick were readied.

This teenager has been
strutting his stuff
just a bit too much
This was our first opportunity to put into practice the skills we recently acquired on the poultry dispatch and preparation day. I won't give you all the details, but this way is so much easier, both for us and for the chickens. In no time at all four cockerels were dispatched and plucked.



The two aggressive teenagers
when they were little


Dispatched
Well and truly plucked!

After a night hanging in the stables, Sue was up at the crack of dawn. (ed - just read this back and realised I need to point out it was the chickens hanging in the stables overnight, not Sue!) There wasn't a lot of meat on these boys, but they won't go to waste.




So that's the end of my Easter story. Enjoy the Easter eggs!




Saturday, 19 April 2014

Foraging

I will never weed in the same light again.

I attended my first meeting of the Cambridgeshire Self Sufficiency Group one evening a couple of weeks back. It was all about foraging, aka eating weeds. Later in the year, we're talking blackberries, sloes and crab apples. But at this time of year it's mostly leaves.
I started with a light snack of cleavers, followed by a sniff of a wild leek, a nibble of Jack-by-the-hedge, all washed down with a nettle scone.

At a time of year when there is what is known as a 'hungry gap', when the old crops are running out and we are waiting for this season's crops, nature is providing us with a wealth of fresh, green shoots.
Many of them have quite surprising flavours. More accents rather than in your face flavour, but not as much like grass as you'd think!

I doubt I'll ever get seriously into this type of foraging as I'm more into cultivating my own food and I can produce greens for this time of year if I so desire, but I may just occasionally dip into the store of free food which shoots up all around the smallholding. The odd lime leaf or violet flower would certainly add a trendy dash to a summer salad.

But, for now, I'll just use it as a good excuse for not dealing with my nettles!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Trying for Goslings

Just a quick update on the goose situation. We have snuck 6 eggs away from the Giant Dewlap geese and placed them in the incubator. It's only a small incubator, so half a dozen goose eggs is a bit of a squeeze. I'm not holding out much hope, but you never know.

But two nights ago we had a potential disaster.
Sue woke up at 6.30am to find that the electricity had tripped off. I had come up to bed at 12.30, which means that for up to 6 hours the eggs had no heat.
I asked for advice on a Facebook group (Goose, Goose, Gander) and the unanimous opinion was that they should still be okay. Two reasons. One, the centre of the egg should retain warmth for that long. Two, unlike chicken eggs, some people even advise cooling goose eggs for a short period every day.
We'll see.

We've also been stealing the eggs from the Embdens' nest for our own consumption and replacing them with Giant Dewlap eggs.
The nest is now large enough for two to sit
I don't know whether geese can count, but they seem to sit once they get up to about 18 eggs. Since the girl Embdens were coming under a bit too much mating pressure, we've now stopped taking eggs from their nest and in the last few days they have started sitting. Last year their efforts came to nothing, so we're not building our hopes up this year either. It's just that right now we have quite enough goose eggs to be going on with and it's better to let the girls sit.


Don't come any closer!


Monday, 14 April 2014

Breaking up is hard to do. Preparing the ground.

I am almost on top of my veg beds this year.
There have even been times when I have not had to dig or turn a bed when the seeds or seedlings needed to go in.

But there was big area which still needed work. The "Spare Veg Patch".
This is where I grow the crops which demand a bit more  space. The Three Sisters (Sweetcorn, Squashes and Beans), fodder crops (including my bid to retain the Mangold Wurzel trophy) and my brassicas, which I have moved out of my main vegetable rotation due to constantly snagging up the netting in the mower.
This part of the garden is on the part of my land which is classified as agricultural. This means that in the past the soil was worked to its limit and denuded. The lack of organic matter makes the soil very clayey. It's been compacted over the years too.

So I was facing quite a tricky rotavator job. It would eventually get there, but it would need several passes between the tines. But then along came Don, my friendly neighbour, with an offer to drag it with his tractor. In no time at all the surface was broken up. Farmers have all manner of machinery to reduce the soil to a fine tilth, but the drag at least got it part way there.



















Just a few hours with Mr Rotavator and I have managed to get it to this.
















Now I just need a bit of rain so I can break up those golf ball size hard lumps.
But if we don't get it, I should be able to sow the wurzel seeds anyway. They don't need a fine tilth.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Crag Martin!!!!!!

Today did not turn out as expected.
For I ended up spending a few hours sat here...

The cliffs at Flamborough South Landing

As I laid in bed enjoying a lazy morning and contemplating the idea of actually getting up, Sue appeared brandishing my pager. "Mega", she announced. A mega brings news of a very rare bird, one which just might give you reason to drop everything, abandon all plans and jump straight in the car. I don't get quite so excited by the mega message these days, as I have already seen many of the birds which would merit such treatment... "Crag Martin", she announced.

I sat bolt upright. "CRAG MARTIN!!!! Where?"
"Flamborough Head".

It didn't take me long to jump into my clothes, grab my wallet, phone and optics and I was gone. Sue shoved a few chocolate bars at me to keep me going.
The last twitchable Crag Martin was in 1999 - before I got serious. I'd never even had a chance at seeing one in Britain.

The SatNav said I would arrive in about three and a half hours. Now that's a long time for a Crag Martin to hang around over a headland. But past experience has taught me to just go for hirundines (the collective term for swallows and martins, but swifts tend to get lumped in too). The best hope would be that it found the cliff face to its liking and there were enough insects around to keep it busy.

As I headed north, I half expected the pager to go silent until the dreaded "no sign" message. Or worse still, to get two thirds of the way there and then to receive said message.

So I was encouraged to see this message - Crag Martin still 9.38am

I kept driving, negotiating twisty roads, slow lorries, tractors and a couple of those silly little cars shaped somewhat like the box in which the driver will most likely soon be carried off! But almost exactly half way into my journey the news came through that I feared.

10:31  - Crag Martin till 9.40am then flew SW and no further sign
A quick calculation told me that this was very bad news. I felt deflated. I felt like turning back. But no! I mustn't forget the hirundine rule - keep going!

And thirteen minutes later I got my reward for persistence.

10:44 - Crag Martin still 10:36
and at 10:46 Crag Martin still 10:41

11:14 - Crag Martin still 11:03
11:37 - Crag Martin still 11:17

I couldn't quite believe it. I was speeding (when I wasn't frustratedly attempting to overtake lines of traffic who insisted on sitting behind farm tractors) toward a Crag Martin and it was still there. Ten minutes to get through Beverley town centre did my blood pressure no good whatsoever.
But I was now within half an hour and my heart was pounding.

Then the killer message.
11:41 - No further sign of Crag Martin by 11:41

This journey was developing into a rollercoaster of emotions. But there was no turning back now. My faith in The Hirundine Rule was being tested to the limit, but I was so close now I might as well just put my foot down and get there.

11:47 - Crag Martin still 11:43

Hope again! I was now just a quarter of an hour away from a lifer. I had brought the SatNav arrival time down to 12:01, despite the last thirty miles being interminably slow.

Along the final stretch of road out to the headland, for some reason I took a turn to the South Landing instead of continuing to the lighthouse car park. I don't know why. I put it down to my birder's sixth sense.
As I pulled into the car park several car loads of birders were headed toward the clifftop. I asked one whether I was better off here or at the lighthouse and they informed me that they'd been at the lighthouse with no luck. This didn't sound like great news. I followed them along the path, yomping to catch up. What I didn't know was that I had missed a message while yomping

12:10 - Crag Martin still 12:03 over gully east of South Landing

If I'd seen this, I probably would have attempted to run a bit faster than my aging body could withstand. As we approached the clifftop I could see about twenty birders ahead, all looking and pointing down into the gully just below them. I cracked and ran the last bit.
Surely they were watching the bird. I would have to be really unlucky to miss it now.

Stopping short of the other birders, I looked down into the gully and the second bird I saw, just below me, was the Crag Martin! For maybe thirty seconds it flew around right in front of me, rising above the clifftop and calling just over my head, along with a few sand martins. By now my heart had calmed down and I could hold my binoculars steady enough to watch it gradually drift off, higher and higher, towards Bridlington.

And that was that. Apart from one sighting reported by a single observer (though a reliable one) at 12:36, not another glimpse. Diddly Squat.

Three hours since Sue had made her initial announcement, I had a Crag Martin under my belt. I would have liked to have watched it for longer, but just imagine if I'd have had to stop for petrol, or if I'd gone to the lighthouse car park first!

12:21 - Crag Martin still 12:14   And that's the message that really mattered.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Welcome to the world, Mr Bean

Water from a tap and water from the sky are two completely different compounds.

 
A few days ago I connected up the hosepipe to fill all the animal drinkers and duck pools - the ducks have new pools so were most excited. quacking happily and nodding their heads up and down.

Happiness is...
While I was waiting for them to fill, I inspected the onion sets. A couple of them were just beginning to emerge, but none of them was exactly in a hurry. I inspected the broad beans too. More precisely, I gazed at the soil in search of something that didn't resemble a marigold seedling. But nowt. This happens with broad beans every year. They wait until I've almost given up hope, then they appear.

Overnight it rained. What a result! For rain water doesn't just keep plants alive, it breathes life into them. So I entered the garden this morning and voila!

The first broad bean seedlings
shoving the soil out of their way
and onions two inches tall!
Generally speaking, broad beans are the first outdoor sown seed to come through in my veg patch. From now on its onward and upward.
 
The shallots put on an amazing spurt of growth too.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Swallows Are Back!

Today marked what for me is probably the most important day of the year in Nature's calendar.
I spent the whole day outside preparing the beds, for it won't be long before they start to fill up. The day started out sunny but with a chill breeze, enough to send me indoors for a while. But by late morning it was a beautiful spring day. I slogged my guts out, mostly taking advantage of perfect soil conditions to do the weeding before the rotavator comes out.
Now whether I subconsciously heard them or not I don't know, but I got to thinking about when the swallows would return. This would be a perfect day for them to start trickling through. Not five minutes later I had my answer as a swallow chattered above my head.
Now one swallow does not make a summer, but what about six?
The swallows don't head straight for the stables. They may not even be 'my' swallows, though they always linger a while over the farm. It makes me wonder if they scout out their breeding site for a few days. And I always wonder just how many of last year's birds have made it back. Do the young return with them, or are their numbers augmented by new birds?
If only I could ring them, so many questions would be answered.

Anyway, important thing is that they are back.

And that means it's time to really get going with the growing.
So this evening I dusted down all the wooden plant labels and gave them a scrub.
I could end up playing pick-up-sticks with these!
I'll be out again tomorrow and I'll be looking forward to seeing my old acquaintances again.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

No-one likes killing chickens, but it has to be done.

Not a good day for some of these!
I'll put most of the pictures for this one at the bottom, just in case you're of a sensitive nature. But don't worry too much. They are selected and sanitised.

No-one likes killing a chicken, but it has to be done.

I'm sure that there are people reading this who are already thinking "How could you do that?" Well, please don't think that it doesn't happen in the neatly packaged world of the supermarket chicken. What do you think happens to all the boy chicks who won't lay eggs? What do you think happens to the hens when they become slightly less productive at the end of their first year? And how do you think they get the price of chicken so cheap? Despite their various cleverly worded descriptions, do you really think they encourage their chickens to roam around using up energy, to peck and scratch around for insects, to eat grass, to actually behave like real chickens?

Rant over.

So, getting back to the subject in hand, sometimes chickens have to meet their maker. Nobody wants to leave a sick chicken to die a slow death (only humans get that privilege). Nobody wants to watch their cockerels fighting (that sport was banned a long time ago). Nobody wants to see their hens constantly harassed by too many over-zealous cockerels. Lastly, and I'm a bit soft about this, an old hen really doesn't lay many eggs but still carries on eating food. Not that they need to go after just a year.

I've written before about my sad inability to wring their necks. I just didn't have the feel for it, couldn't get the knack. I've written a very gory post about beheading them with an axe! This may seem rather extreme, but it is in fact a very quick, effective and humane way of doing the deed. But it's not the cleanest way, for they still flap and even run around after the deed is done and it can get a bit messy. It's not just in the cartoons that this happens.
Also on my mind was the fact that I couldn't see this working so well with a slippery guinea fowl, a thick-necked duck or a larger bird such as a turkey or a goose.

Why am I writing about this right now?
I had been looking forward to last Sunday for a while. For I had arranged to go over to Mick's from the CSSG (Cambridgeshire Self Sufficiency Group). This is a group which splintered off from the Fenland Goatkeepers Club a few years back. I have now joined it, as well as the Fenland Smallholders, as it is now called. Mick used to run this training when he was with the Smallholders and it was one of the reasons I joined, so when I first arrived on the scene three years ago I was somewhat mystified as to the non-existence of this opportunity. It has taken me all this time to get to the bottom of it, since the CSSG is strictly hush hush in the world of the Fenland Smallholders!!!

Anyway, everybody who had undertaken this training had spoken of it most highly. We turned up at Mick's smallholding and were welcomed by his ever-attentive dog, Diesel. A scraggy, greying animal, we were informed that it had once won a prize for being the dog which most looked like its owner! I'm sure he'd be embarrassed to read this, but Mick was a truly lovely man, thoughtful, generous and contented with his lot. There was no agenda apart from to help like-minded people. This continued for the whole day and was both refreshing and thought-provoking. We have mostly escaped the rat race these days, but I think that some of the stress and worry is still in our systems. I sincerely hope that the longer we do this, the more like a pair of old hippies we can become!

I'll spare you the details of the day. Suffice to say that we learned to use the broom handle method to dispatch chickens and turkeys and we learned to hot water pluck. The whole process was so much easier as well as being quick and humane for the birds, which is the most important bit. The hot water plucking was a revelation. I couldn't really help out much with this bit as I had a badly cut finger (injury sustained elsewhere, nothing to do with the chickens and turkeys) which was just getting in the way. But still it was clearly much easier than dry plucking.

Mick treated us to a lunch of roast turkey, potatoes and salad before the afternoon session, where he showed us how to process the dead birds (he had killed and hung a few earlier in the week for us). Since our birds will be for our own consumption, being able to joint them up and store them in smaller portions is most useful.

All that leaves me to do is show you the pictures. And to thank Mick again. I'm sure I'll be getting more involved in the Self Sufficiency Group if this day was anything to go by.

Selfie
Pluck me!
An alternative way of doing the deed




 
Oven Ready

Friday, 4 April 2014

How to make cider and have fun.

Thank goodness the Easter holidays have arrived. For it's been a hectic last week, not helped by the advent of BST (an hour's sleep lost), a dose of Saharan sand and a European smog cloud (of course, all this pollution must come from somewhere else). Add to that the fact that I always get my hayfever early in the season and it leaves me short of breath and it really was the perfect storm. All these factors have left me absolutely knackered for a few days, but the prospect of almost three weeks on the smallholding with no other work commitments is making me feel much more lively again.

As I write this, sat with my morning coffee, something has just mysteriously popped in the kitchen. It's a bottle of slowly fermenting apple juice, destined to become cider vinegar for the chickens. Sue squeezes the bottle in to allow room for the gases to expand and every now and again the plastic pops back out.

Cider making day - The team at work.
Last Saturday was cider-making day. This has become an enjoyable ritual which we perform a few times every year. A group of us get together and gradually demolish a third of a ton of apples, wielding various weapons with the general idea of reducing them into smaller and smaller pieces until they are almost unrecognisable.

Chopping
The process known as "scratting"
We had a beautiful day for it and a newly arrived chiffchaff sang out for springtime as we chopped. We made faster progress on the initial chopping than usual and the scratting - further chopping using lawn edgers and a hoe - somehow seemed less arduous than usual. From there it was into the adapted shredder which does a great job of reducing the apple pieces into a fine pulp.

smaller...
By lunch time, all apples were chopped, but there was a problem. The shredder had shorted and kept tripping the electricity. It was dismantled - note the use of the passive verb, as I kept well away from the operation - cleaned and left to dry out a bit while we took a lunch break. A delicious tomato soup followed by various bits and bobs which people had brought along. The biscuits from the Blokes Baking Group went down very well.
and smaller...
By early afternoon the shredder was recuperated and ready for another bash. There was quite a queue of buckets full of chopped apple to go through it and then it all had to be pressed, a job which cannot be rushed too much.

and smaller.


As the production line moved towards its end, I became more involved in operating the press. This is a beast of a machine, pretty much cobbled together from recycled and scrounged materials, but it exerts quite some pressure and the juice soon starts to flow out of the pulp. It reminds me of a medieval torture machine and brings new meaning to turning the screw.

SQUEEEEEEEEEZE!!!!
And so to the end product. 110 litres of freshly pressed apple juice and nine bags of squeezed apple pulp. We shared out the apple juice to go home, ready to be converted into cider, apple wine or cider vinegar (or just simple kept as juice, though it doesn't keep too long without pasteurising or freezing). As for the pulp, that went into the back of my car and will keep Daisy, the chooks and the geese happy for quite some time. They seem to especially enjoy it when it starts to ferment. Funny that!


So, how do we turn the juice into cider?
Well, once we've got it home it's decanted into clean demijohns (the big glass containers with a narrow neck, readily available on ebay etc) and there it sits. Leave a bit of space at the top. The only other equipment you need is a bung with an airlock. You half fill the airlock bit with water. This works similar to a u-bend! Any excess gases bubble up through the water and escape, but the fermenting apple juice is not exposed to the air outside. You don't need to add anything. After a few days, sometimes a bit longer, the juice starts to develop a froth on top and not much later you start to hear strange bubbling sounds. Look closely and you will see millions of tiny bubbles of gas rising through the fermenting juice. It's really quite astonishing how active it gets.
This continues for about a week and eventually it all settles down. The bubbling stops and the sediment starts to settle. Leave everything to settle completely, then syphon the liquid off into whatever bottles (sterilised) you're using. There may be further development of gases, so old lemonade / coke bottles are good for this, or proper beer bottles, either the Grolsch type or normal bottles if you have a bottle topper.
Of course, it can be a bit more complicated than this. You can measure the specific gravity of your fermented juice, you can sweeten it, you may experience secondary fermentation (!). But, at the end of the day, we don't mind how it turns out as long as it's drinkable. Sometimes it's sweet, sometimes it's dry. Sometimes it's still, sometimes it's fizzy. To tell the truth, we don't know why. It just happens and it's always a good moment to find out how a batch has fared.
Of course, if you want to be more scientific and control the outcome a bit more, you can read up on it elsewhere. But the basics as outlined here should get you a fairly decent tipple.
None of the equipment costs very much. By far the most expensive is the press, if you're buying a new one. Pulverising the apples can be a bit of a chore too and you can buy various machines to do this for you. The best will set you back in the region of £700! You'd have to drink a lot of cider to make this worthwhile. Of course, you could always start up your own cider club. It certainly makes for a very pleasant day.
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