Hectic again, so this is the Monday morning catch-up post from Saturday.
It was a long day on Saturday. We set up early and pressed the Lord Derby for our single variety juice – twelve hours later we locked the gates and went home. So much for my work/life balance.
Between those two events we managed to eat several cobs containing pig products and pressed a lot of apples for the community, plus a couple of lots of pears.
In contrast to previous Saturdays people arrived with boxes, builder’s bags, assorted carrier bags and even a hand cart. Bearing in mind the educational aspects of the day, I was happy to allow everyone a chance to experience the hands-on aspects of the job, though nobody showed any interest in the cleaning up. I must think up a killer sales pitch for next year – the Full Farm Experience to go with the Full English Breakfast.
Everybody seemed to go away happy, despite the incident with tea urn. That occurred when someone brought some 10 litre bags to fill. In order to get through the pasteurising quicker I was using two tea urns plus the pasteuriser (which is just a big urn). Unfortunately I overlooked the possibility for damage to the bag from the absence of a trivet. Or, to put it another way, I welded a bag to the bottom of the urn.
So, a fused urn, a punctured bag, stickiness, apologies…
You get the picture.
Despite that, a local orchard owner has just (Monday morning) asked if I can pasteurise 150 bottles for him.
Today’s learning: Remember to put a tea towel in the bottom of the urn next time.
Today’s tasting notes: The Lord Derby juice is a lot sweeter than I was expecting from a cooking apple, also a bit thicker, more orange and more prone to producing sediment. I’m hoping it’s going to be popular because we have twenty trees and once they grow they are likely to be heavy croppers.
You can’t see it so much in the photo but the Lord Derby juice is a different colour (see small bottles and large bottles on right of picture
We’ve been drying apples ready for the weekend. The intention was to bag them up and sell them but we’ve just hit a snag (apart from the one where we eat loads of them) – they just don’t weigh much!
At the current rate, which includes using the group and the Applemaster, we will have about £6- £8 worth of apple rings by the weekend.
It’s not going to make much of a dent in the funds. On the other hand it will be easier to store than the apple juice, which is beginning to make the shelves bend under the weight of bottles.
I’m still thinking about storage for the next lot – which is going to include 50 small bottles of Lord Derby as single variety.
We have a plan to sell Apple Punch kits at Christmas in an attempt to reduce stocks. We’ve mastered the art of producing apple juice, we just need to sell more than the four to six bottles we get through every Saturday. As they always used to say when I attended sales conferences – Nothing happens until somebody sells something.
There were three young pheasants by the side of the lane today as I came to work. If they are still alive their world will have taken on a different complexion today, as today is the opening day for the shoot.
It’s amazing what you can learn, even when making fairly random notes. I just looked up the shooting seasons and found there is a season for coots and moorhens. I can’t imagine why that’s necessary – they aren’t a pest, they aren’t out of control and I can’t imagine they taste particularly good, which just shows how wrong you can be.
There are quite a few coot recipes on the net, this being one site with a couple.There are also moorhen recipes, and some talk of them being a pest.
I never cease to marvel at the information available on the net, if only you can come up with the right question. Up until now I’d only seen moorhens as a pest when they sidled up to me and ate maggots from my bait box.
Today we did breakfast for twenty and lunch for 30, due to the shoot, plus a variety of other people talking of permaculture, pizza and nasturtium leaf soup. Put out a few feelers for Men in Sheds and saw two of the members – one beating for the shoot and another arriving with a selection of booty from the Saturday auction in Newark, including several power tools and a welder. Have a ton bag of apples promised – to be juiced on a 50/50 basis and a group of volunteers who are coming on Thursday to do some heavy garden work.
Strange how talking of pressure yesterday seems to have rekindled my enthusiasm for tomorrow.
If you look at the last line of my last post you will see the words “I’m slightly worried that things are going too well.”
That state of affairs lasted for around 12 hours, until the car ground to a halt on the way to work. It started again fairly easily, cut out a few more times and then didn’t miss a beat for the rest of the journey. Annoying, perplexing and, as the interval between incidents is decreasing, worrying.
That was just the beginning.
The cook for the Saturday cafe, who is supposed to be there an hour before me was decidedly not there. |As I turned into the drive I noticed the absence of car, which wasn’t a good sign. The kitchen, when I walked round, was dark and cold and quite clearly not open for business.
Time for a decision. I opened up, consulted my list of numbers and woke up a man who sounded like he had been having a lie-in until some idiot woke him by ringing a wrong number.
Not a good start.
The second attempt was almost equally fruitless – right number but they were already doing something else.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we did get a stand-in, I got the sausage and bacon ready for them and it all went reasonably well for the rest of the day. We did another 55 large and 10 small bottles, plus two demijohns for cider. In just three pressing days we have now produced as much as we did in the whole season last year. Modesty prevents me saying that the new man in charge of pressing is more efficient, harder working and better looking than the one we had last year. However, if you want to draw your own conclusions feel free…
People brought a lot of Bramleys and Lord Derby , taking away gallons of healthy juice and leaving us a lot of apples donated for our own use. So all in all the day turned out to be productive, enjoyable and worthwhile.
Well, it will be as long as we can sell the juice.
By “Poet’s day” I refer to the “Push off early, tomorrow’s Saturday” variety (and its less polite derivatives), not National Poetry Day, which is something completely different.
What starts with preparing a set of international breakfasts (England, Scotland, France, Germany, USA) and ends with preparing for apple pressing on Saturday? That’s right – Friday.
The kids, as usual, voted for the German Breakfast – salami, cheese and rye bread. The French (pain au chocolat), was second along with the American (pancakes and honey). English (toast and marmalade) and Scottish (overnight oats with fruit) came bottom.
I could have added a further breakfast by doing toast and Vegemite and calling it an Australian breakfast but it didn’t work out well last time we tried it.
They may not be the best examples of national breakfasts but we have time and cash constraints with these presentations. I’m not about to cook a dozen Full English breakfasts, for instance, and last time we made proper Scottish porridge the kids put so much sugar in it the healthy eating message was well and truly buried under a heap of calories.
So – shopping, breakfast for 12 kids, Men in Sheds (where we had tools, mugs and jam jars donated), back for apple pressing demo, replace fuse in electric scratter, press juice for someone in return for donation of apples and pears, clean up, blog, get ready for tomorrow’s pressing, set Saturday Cafe up, make overnight oats for cafe, home, sleep in front of TV. I think that’s all.
Routing the arrow signs for the footpaths
I’m slightly worried that things are going too well.
We had a review of one of our clients and when we sat down and talked it through we had to say that although they have problems, three years with us has made a big improvement in manners, use of mobile devices and willingness to work outside. I’m not saying everything is perfect, because none of us are (not even me, and I have the advantage of writing only the good things about myself) but we’ve definitely made a difference.
Whether it’s a warm glow of satisfaction at a job done well, or just a touch of false pride, I couldn’t say. However, for now I’m feeling happy.
We ran out of eggs today because so many people bought them yesterday and the chickens failed to turn up the production overnight couldn’t take the shine off my good humour. Though when the volunteer cook melted the egg poacher I did feel a momentary wobble in my good humour. She boiled the pan dry, wasted four precious eggs and melted the plastic pots you poach the eggs in. Then she threw the pan away. As I said, pulling it out of the bin, it will clean up and even if it isn’t fit for kitchen use it’s good for garden or farm.
Reuse, repair recycle. We’ve been doing it on farms for years. I’m going to send her one of these as a gentle reminder.
I’m sure Men in Sheds will have a use for it.
On the natural history front we’ve had a good flush of butterflies this week in the late sun, with Speckled Woods putting in a strong showing on every day. You’ve seen enough of them on the blog so I won’t add another photo. I don’t know if it’s fact or just my observation, but they do seem keen to get themselves trapped inside. They did the same thing last year – coming in, perching on ledges and eventually dying.
Apple pressing went well with plenty of bottles on the shelves;apple sorting went less well so we admitted defeat on that and just put them into a big pile for pressing.
One of the few that went right
There are some truly beautiful apples amongst them. Speaking personally, if I was Snow White I would eat some of these apples even if I did suspect my stepmother. They are just so appley.
That’s not a word according to my spell-checker. Let’s say that they look like the very essence of appleness then. No, that’s not a word either. Ah well…
The plan was to pick them and to bag them up with a note of the variety so I could photograph them for the website.
It didn’t quite work out that way. Hence the big pile.
The group that visited us on Friday still enjoyed the apple pressing even if I couldn’t identify the varieties so it doesn’t really matter.
Finally, I started another of my ill-fated experiments. I have three jars of carefully weighed apple waste and water. With luck it will become cider vinegar. Regular readers may recall that my experiments often fail to work, often because I forget about them,so we will have to see what happens.
There are three jars – one has cores in (which should take a couple of months to become vinegar if the internet is to be believed), one has apple pieces (which should take longer) and one has pomace from the pressing process, which is a bit of an unknown quantity as we’ve already squeezed a lot of the goodness out of it. If it works, it will give us an alternative to feeding pigs with the apple pressings.
If it doesn’t work I will merely have expanded my repertoire of disastrous experiments.
Apples, cores, pomace. Yes, I stick labels on later
To get the right conditions of reasonable cleanliness, freedom from interference, darkness and temperature, I’ve hidden them behind books on the bookshelf in the office.
Since the intervention of the AA the car hasn’t missed a beat and, in the way of intermittent faults, if the fault won’t show itself the garage can’t correct it. At the moment I’m driving round trusting to luck and hoping this faultless performance continues until I can get back to the garage on Tuesday. It may be more sensible to leave it in the garage until then but the reality is that at £10 each on the bus, or £30 in a taxi, it makes economic sense to drive to work.
It was Community Apple Pressing Day today again, and we had a variety of people discussing apples, neighbours, juicing, pigs, compost, rugby and recycling containers. That’s Community for you – always plenty to talk about.
By the end we had 55 big bottles and 45 small ones. I make that 52 litres. It isn’t much compared tothe 90 gallon capability claimed for the large press but allowing time for talking and pasteurising it too plenty of time. Producing juice, it must be said, is the easiest bit of the process with an industrial size scratter. Cleaning, sorting, washing equipment, sterilising bottles and pasteurising all seem to be endless tasks compared to the simple act of tipping apples into a machine and pressing the juice from the pulp.
Juklia bought me an Apple Master – it peels, cores and makes the apple into a spiral all at the same time. I’m not sure what its practical use is but it’s great for engaging people. She is a wonderful woman and I’m lucky to have her. (That’s a voluntary statement – she didn’t tell me to say it!)
Well, we’ve bitten the bullet and announced the shed will be open every Friday from 10.30 until 12.30. Let’s see if the initial enthusiasm translates into a a viable membership.
I used to use a lathe with my grandfather when I was in my early teens and I wish I’d carried on with it, but I didn’t and I’m going to have to relearn the skills again. It’s just one of a range of handicraft skills I let lapse over the years. I’m also going to have a crack at making wooden toys. It’s another thing that runs in the blood – the same grandfather made so many black market toys from scrap wood during the war he was able to buy a bath. A proper bath, that is, rolled top and all, not a hip bath.
He was a very industrious man, my grandfather. He joined up twice and his employers made the RAF cough him up twice because they couldn’t do without him. He spent all day as a quarry foreman at a cement company (they need a lot of cement in wartime, what with runways and pill boxes and such) and all night as a fireman, serving in Manchester and Liverpool during the blitz. I’m not quite sure where his spare time came from but he didn’t let it go to waste.
As I sit here, frittering my time with inconsequential chat on a blog I’m not sure he’d be pleased to see the way I turned out.
In group terms the day started badly when the taxi turned up with only three people. They said they’d told the driver he’d missed a pick-up but we’re not sure, as they aren’t keen on the new arrangement where there are four of them in the taxi.
It was all sorted by a quick call to the taxi company, but it wasn’t a great start.
It’s also an example of what happens when cost-cutting leads to the use of cheaper and less efficient taxi companies, though some would call me cynical.
It was a rainy day and though we rewove some willow hedge, potted herbs for the Ploughing Match and polished off a number of odd jobs, it didn’t seem like we did much as it was all in bits and bats.
Apple pressing again tomorrow – they sold so much at the weekend we need another pressing just to restock the cafe. That’s good, but it also puts me in mind of a hamster constantly circling in his wheel.
We had the first meeting of the Screveton Shed this morning and have agreed to go ahead with the project. We also had a go with the kid’s stuff from Project Molish and had sausage and mash for lunch. Obviously we did other things too, but those are the main points.
We covered finance, mental health, the ethos of sheds, Health and Safety, possible projects, First Aid, apple pressing, cider making and many other topics. We also agreed to admit all men regardless of age, on account of the fact that passing down knowledge would be tricky without young people to pass it down to.
Making towers from spaghetti and marshmallows
Someone with experience in another shed told us that they’d had two people taken off in ambulances in the last three years so we could also do with some youngsters to carry stretchers.
For the moment we are ignoring the subject of women. I know it’s not politically correct but I don’t feel guilty about this because the Women’s Institute refused me membership on the grounds of me being a man. What goes around comes around.
The other point is that it’s supposed to be a forum for men to talk about their health. Now, speaking as a man, it isn’t going to happen. I believe I talk for most men when I say this. Men in Sheds is supposed to make us open up about health and save our lives but speaking personally, it isn’t my habit to discuss ongoing medical problems with anyone. I don’t even discuss most of them with my doctor.
Candidate for Health and Safety rep
A discussion with apple juice in hand
Last time I discussed anything serious with my doctor I ended up with a prostate exam and camera in my bladder, and that camera was not inserted along a route that a sane man would consider, I promise you. Is it any wonder we don’t talk about health?
Anyway, when you deduct speakers and miscellaneous visitors it looks like there could be about nine people to start the shed, probably a few more after we’ve employed subtle pressure. That’s a good number, and something to work with. We now consider nine the lower end for the bread group but it’s taken a few years to build up to that. I can still remember when we thought nine was a good turnout.
And finally, lunch…
If you want to come along drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll let you know when the next meeting is.
There’s no free meal next time, but as the poet said: “The days of sausage and potatoes, they are not long”.