Recently we have had some perfect autumn days that linger in the memory, to make up for the lousy summer. Harvest has begun and activity around the cider shed is hotting up. Last week we started pressing our first juice of the year, the Discovery which although it has a fantastic pink colour, the sugars are 20% down on last year. This is due to the lack of sunlight and the poor uptake of potassium due to the wet conditions which all slows the ripening process and the starch is not converted to sugar. This week the next batch of Tumpy Ground cider has been sent off to be put into bags and hence into box, along with the Worcester apple juice for bottling. The grass keeps growing as if it were April and has to be cut often to get it short enough for the harvesting machinery. Another of life's little balances.
Shows and Stuff
The show season is also upon us and there was great excitement when Kay attended Carfest where she rubbed shoulders with Chris Evans. He was a very good host coming round to all the producers for a photo opportunity. Ludlow has been and went and the re-scheduled Welland Steam Rally was last weekend. These will be followed by The Malvern Autumn Show, September 29th and 30th, The Big Apple October 13th and 14th and then our local Hereford Food Festival on the last weekend in October.
The Three Counties Cider Shop
Once Upon A Tree trade customer base is growing with the Midlands Co-Op Group and Countrywide stores now stocking our products and quite a few who focus on Tumpy Ground Draught. Among these are two specialist cider shops in Bristol and Essex, who have been doing good trade in the last year or so but there is not a similar outlet anywhere in our region. Well there will be now - 5a The Homend in Ledbury recently came up for rent, a small double fronted unit in a prime position right in the middle of town. We signed the lease, have applied for the licence and have begun to fit it out. We will sell Once Upon A Tree products but also feature a range of draught ciders and perries and probably a Wye Valley beer as well as other local cider producers. We plan to open in early October. Watch this space.
When we originally set up Once Upon A Tree, part of the plan was to offer contract wine making at some point as a service to small local vineyard owners. Three Choirs deal with larger amounts, but do not have the capacity for smaller producers so their grapes usually end up in one ubiquitous pressing. However Coddington Vineyard has just been sold and the winery there will be used for the new owner's vintage car collection. We have purchased the wine making equipment which will need to be moved over to Dragon Orchard very soon so we will be able to carry out the whole wine making process. As you can imagine, this has initiated a massive move around to sort out our storage capacity, rather like an elaborate parlour game with some crafty moves we are still contemplating.
The Legacy of Bees
As a group of people interested in fruit production we are all aware of the role of honey bees in our orchards. The challenges facing managed bee populations are understood and research is relatively well funded. We recently attended a talk organised Putley WI given by The Bee Guardian Foundation, which totally changed our perception of these creatures. There are over 20,000 species of bees, including many living underground and in cavities, as well as in nests made from petals and leaves. Over three-quarters of our food depends on pollination and wild bees are an essential part of this, especially bumble bees which are able to operate at lower temperatures than honey bees. The hypodermic syringe, the microscope, sweetness, light and modular building techniques all owe their origin to bee technology and our future on this planet is closely linked to theirs. We are planning closer links to The Bee Guardian Foundation and hope to organise a talk at Dragon Orchard in the New Year. http://www.beeguardianfoundation.org/