Gearing up

Our space is feeling much more like a cidery now that we've got our equipment moved into the cider shed. That's a real nice photo of me smiling and slapping adhesive on FRP panels for the walls, but not pictured is the crew of builders, electricians and plumbers who did about 99% of the renovations and have been working madly to meet our government inspection deadline--while coming up with creative solutions to equipment setup issues and work space configurations. They've done a beautiful job inside and out, and we can't wait to get in there and get to work making cider.

Meanwhile, we've been spending much of our time picking, trying to meet an average of 800 lbs of apples per day and building the apple bins as we run out. Luckily they should last for many years! As the hop grower down the road reminded us, the first year is always the worst. There's a lot we weren't prepared for and we probably over-estimated the amount of time and energy we have, but next year--next year will be grand. Everyone on the island seems to have King of Tompkins County trees, quite a nice blending apple for cider, and which of course are all ready at the same time. But once we've gathered them all we're hoping the harvest dates for the later season varieties will be a bit more staggered...

As a side note, before we got too busy we did spend some time exploring a few abandoned old orchards that locals have been telling us about (one pictured above left). Some of the trees are just loaded, so we took our handy refractometer and tested the "specific gravity" of each variety (sugar levels). A few were above our desired minimum but none were overly exciting, which is to be expected with many of these old settler trees. Often the only characteristic European settlers looked for was "keeping" ability, so they could store them over winter in their cellars. We'll keep hunting, though, convinced that we will eventually find, tangled in blackberries and ivy, the holy grail of Pender Island apples.