Wednesday, 16 September 2015

News From Nowhere


I find the seasonal cycle reassuring. Like the sun coming up, there is a certain security knowing that winter will come again and spring will follow it. Each season holds its own wonders and challenges. Without them things would get monotonous. And as a smallholder, each time they come around I get another chance to try and improve on last year. Unfortunately I grow a year older too!

But this cycle doesn't make blogging easy! How do you write about your potato harvest for the fifth time in five years without getting repetitious? I find pulling potatoes from the ground just as amazing, every time I do it, but it's hard to get enthused about writing about it again. I guess I could always hope that no-one except me remembers the post from a year ago. For this reason, I don't always post about everything I do.

One thing which I do look forward to are the cider club days which Roger runs. The spring meeting fell through due to a last minute lack of apples, so it is now a full year since our last flow of apple juice. I don't see the group in between times, but I enjoy their company. They are a group of thinkers.

This last Saturday we gathered again under ominous skies.
The weather held for us, just, and as we chopped and scratted, pulverised, liquidised and pressed, it put me in mind of a book by William Morris, News From Nowhere, a utopian and nostalgic image of times gone by. (Alternative Title: An Epoch of Rest, Being Some Chapters From A Utopian Romance). It is one of the very, very few books to which I periodically return. In particular it reminded me of the community effort to gather in the hay. These days one man comes along with a massive combine harvester and creates a dust storm. Then, a couple of days later, someone else chugs up and down the field and the hay magically pops out the back in its shiny black plastic roll. It is called haylage these days. But in the past people came together. Undoubtedly it was hard work only made possible by a community effort, but it helped bond the community in a way which has now disappeared.

Anyway, back to the cider making. The beauty of the autumn cider day is that the apples are freshly picked. This year Roger had secured a new supply of mixed apples. Such a mix makes for the best juice and the best cider. He had also surprised us by procuring several boxes of mandarins.


These went straight into the shredder, peel and all and it wasn't long before the juice was flowing.

It tastes absolutely delicious as is, but we have put a good quantity away for when Sue gets time to turn it into wine. Now that's something we don't make every year.

The apple juice turned out equally delicious. We've now got three demijohns naturally fermenting. It won't be long before the bubbles start and the airlock valves start making mysterious noises in the kitchen. There's a demijohn unsealed too. This will turn itself into cider vinegar.

As for those changing seasons, we had the fire on last night. It was dark well before 8. And this morning I watched the swallows streaming across the fields. They are not 'our' swallows, for there are hundreds of them, occasionally accompanied by a handful of house martins. These have not yet chosen to adopt our farm as their summer home, so I see them only very rarely on such days when an exodus is in full swing.

I, on the other hand, will spend much of the winter snuggled up in front of my cosy fire with a glass of cider, or even mandarin wine.

And I'll be thinking of my friends. Thank you Roger.

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