Winter Farmers Market
Greenfield’s Winter Fare is more than a Farmer’s Market. Last month I attended the first Winter Farmers Market of the year, held at the Greenfield Middle School. I came home with two heavy bags full of apples, winter squash, watermelon radish, golden beets, bread and frozen ground lamb. And wonderful bread from El Jardin bakery. Walking into that space was like walking into Ali Baba’s cave full of jewels. A little brighter, but with so much wealth spread out before us – and all local. Greenfield’s Winter Fare is more.
On Saturday, February 21 I will be at the 8th Annual Greenfield Winter Fare which started the whole Winter Farmers Market project rolling. Now Winter Fare is more than the Market, although the vendors will be there in force with vegetables, meat, fruit, honey, cheese and bread, etcetera. There will be the Soup Cafe which opens at 11 am and workshops – and visiting because everyone will be there. At 1 pm there will be a Barter Fair led by the Valley Food Swap, swapping home-grown or home-made food.
10 am - Secrets of Winter Garden by Daniel Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm
11 am - Seven Class Culinary Herbs: Harvest, Cultivation and Medicinal Use with Jade Alicandro Mace of Milk & Honey Herbs
Noon – Simple Dairy Ferments, with Aaron Falbel, fermentation enthusiast
For other events during the week click here.
It seems to me that the success of Greenfield’s Winter Fare and the Farmer’s Markets is one measure of our community’s interest in good food, and the health of our environment. In the last few years the number of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms and other small farms has grown as has the number of farmstands and farmers markets. The Community Development Corp has a busy food processing kitchen available to entrepreneurs to make their products. CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) is helping farmers with business training and marketing; and Greenfield Community College has instituted a course in Farm and Food Systems. That is a rich bouquet of services to farmers, and those who enjoy good, healthy food.
Will you be shopping at this year’s Winter Fare? I will.
Winter Fare 2013
Dahlias on Bridge of Flowers
I was walking across the Bridge of Flowers this morning and it is clear this is high Dahlia season. I don’t know the names of these varieties, but I am going to look through the Swan Island Dahlia catalog and see if I can get names for some of these.
Pink Dahlias on Bridge of Flowers
Some dahlias have a more tender hue.
China Doll Dahlia
China Doll is a dahlia that everyone loves.
Dahlia on the Bridge of Flowers
Dahlia on the Bridge of Flowers
Dahlias come in so many forms and sizes.
Shaggy Dahlia on the Bridge of Flowers
Do you think ‘Shaggy’ is a dahlia class?
Stone Fountain at Bridge of Flowers
After all the fire of the dahlias it is nice to have a cool place to sit .
Shade garden on the Shelburne side of the Bridge of Flowers
Leaping Fish sculpture
Before I left the Bridge I had to go and take another look at the new school of fish leaping up river on the Buckland side. Thank you John Sendelbach.
The Bridge hosts what is essentially a joyful garden party every day of the year from April 1 to October 30. Visitors from all over the country – yea all over the world – come here to enjoy the flowers, tended by a gardener, assistant gardener, many volunteers and overseen by the Bridge of Flowers committee, a part of the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club.
Dahlias and Phlox on the Bridge of Flowers
The Bridge of Flowers is a miracle of bloom right now. High summer. The dahlias are just beginning to join the phlox, daylilies, cimicifuga, crocosmia and all manner of daisies. But there is another way to enjoy the Bridge of Flowers.
Art Walk directions
Follow the Shoes for the monthly Art Walk in Shelburne Falls. The various artisans and galleries like Molly Cantor Pottery and the Salmon Falls Artisans Gallery were displaying the talents and skills of many of our area artists. As a member of the Bridge of Flowers Committee I was especially interested in the exhibit at The Art Garden.
Amy Love’s Quilted Bridge of Flowers
One of the beautiful renditions of the Bridge of Flowers was this whimsical quilt square.
Maureen Moore’s Rosies
Maureen Moore, artist, writer, and BOF committee member was inspired by the roses on the Bridge to paint this rose view. The exhibit will continue at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls for the next month. Stop by. And visit the Bridge, too. Don’t forget to sign the guest book.
Molly Cantor flip flops
The Art Walk will next be held on September 13, but the galleries are open even when there is no Art Walk. Be sure and visit. And don’t forget – The Bridge of Flowers is open all day, every day until October 30. No fee. But you can always leave a donation.
Square Foot Gardening With Kids
Gardening with kids is being taken to a whole new level at the HawlemontElementary School. They have received a grant that is allowing them to establish themselves as an AgricultureElementary School. This means that the schoolyard will have a variety of raised vegetable and flower beds, including a story garden that is being sponsored by the school library. But the schoolyard will also become a farmyard with a cow, sheep, goats and chickens. And yes, that means a barn and chicken coop.
Jean Bruffee currently teaches second grade, but next year she will be the Coordinator of the HAY (Hawlemont Agriculture Youth) program. When I spoke to her she said, “Every grade will have an agriculture class every week next year, and children will have chores. We are already putting up hooks for the farm clothes, and they’ll also get a pair of farm boots.” But she explained that studies will also include environmental and sustainability issues. “The barn will have a weather station,” she said.
She also assured me that while the animals will go back to their home farms in the summer, families and teachers are making commitments to care for the gardens during the summer vacation.
Working with our children in a home garden can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it is hard to gauge what children can understand or how far their capabilities might extend. To help parents and friends make a start two new books came out this spring to provide help and inspiration.
Square Foot Gardening With Kids
Those who are familiar with Mel Bartholomew’s unique Square Foot Gardening techniques may be surprised to see how they can lead children not only into a successful garden, but into science and math understanding. Bartholomew’s new book Square Foot Gardening with Kids (Cool Springs Press $24.99) begins with a sensible overview of how to use the book with different age groups, and continues with basic information for all.
Of course, there will be a square foot raised bed box. Immediately we are thrust into a world of fractions. It doesn’t take long to be immersed in a project that requires information, thought, and decisions. The square foot bed needs to be filled with soil, a soil that will provide the nutrition that plants need to thrive. Bartholomew has his own soil mix recipe that he recommends, but on this point I think I recommend loam mixed with a really good helping of compost.
Experienced gardeners are so used to reading catalogs and seed packets, making a planting plan considering the arc of the sun and shadow patterns, maintaining a compost pile, making a trellis or two to save room and deciding what to plant and how to arrange the plants in a rotation, that we forget these acts and decisions require a lot of scientific information that is all new to children. Gardening is not just a physical act, it is an intellectual challenge, there is so much to know and consider. I’m still working on the intellectual challenges in my own garden!
Bartholomew’s book will be valuable to parents, but it will also intrigue children with various experiments, making functional trellises, and even a season-extending plastic dome. A final section gives growing information about the most common herbs and vegetables. Advice to any new gardener, child or adult, is to keep the beginning small so that it does not overwhelm.
Gardening Lab for Kids
Gardening Lab For Kids
While Square Foot Gardening for Kids is mostly geared to school age children, Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments by Renata Fossen Brown (Quarry Books ($24.99) is designed to help the parents of young children find their way into the garden with a series of discrete projects. A list of the short chapters shows the variety of approaches from Planting Spring Seeds, Make a Rain Gauge, Plant an Herb Spiral, Make a Bird Feeder and Make a Sweet Pea Teepee.
The 52 projects are simple, requiring very few materials. The potato tower is made from old tires, a bug net is a piece of tulle transformed with a wire coat hanger, a nesting material apparatus for the birds requires only a whisk and the materials, and a pollinator palace is made of bricks, pegboard and twigs. Lot of science in all these projects for any age child.
Fossen knows that the value of a garden is not only in the various practical functions it serves, but in the space it provides for imagination and rest. Suggestions are made for a fairy garden. I’m wondering whether great-granddaughters Bella and Lola might think the privacy under the weeping birch is a good place for a fairy garden. Fossen also suggests a place to sit and admire the garden. Sitting peacefully and admiring the garden is something we adult gardeners might need some help with. There is more to a garden than chores.
Fossen is the Associate Director of Education at the ClevelandBotanical Garden where thousands of children come with their classes or with parents to learn about butterflies and pollinators and all kinds of plants so she is familiar with the many tactile ways children engage with nature and a garden.
Do you have kids in your life that you might lead down the garden path regularly, or from time to time? Help and inspiration is at hand.
Between the Rows May 17, 2014
The Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale is Today, Saturday, May 17, 9 am – noon. Don’t Be Late.
Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale perennials
Plant sales are a sure sign that spring is here. When spring arrives plans and projects to spruce up our outdoor spaces, in our yards and in our towns, are set in motion. The Bridge of Flowers is a big beautiful public space, but other public spaces are getting their spruce up, too.
The Bridge of Flowers is one of the notable tourist attractions of the region. Certainly it has the most flowers per square foot anywhere. It is a joy – and an education – for the local residents who get to cross the Bridge regularly on their daily rounds. For the thousands of tourists who come from as far away as China, it is an unforgettable wonder and marvel.
This year the Bridge got a new bench designed and built by John Sendelbach whose studio is on the Buckland side of the Bridge. It was very exciting to have it rolled down the street, across the Bridge and into its place on the Shelburne side of the Bridge. That corner of the Bridge garden is definitely spruced up.
Another Bridge spruce up is not quite so visible.
As a member of the Bridge of Flowers committee and the monitor of the BOF email, one of the most frequent questions I get is ‘When is the best time to visit the Bridge?’ My answer is always, ‘It depends on what kind of flowers you like best.” The Bridge opens on April 1 when only the earliest crocuses are blooming but by mid-May there are tulips, daffodils, scillas, snowflakes, hyacinths, bloodroot, jack-in-the-pulpit, blooming trees like cherry and magnolia, and a variety of annuals from pansies to peturnias and osteospermums. More annuals will be added over the next few weeks.
By June the Bridge is in the full and glorious bloom that we promise everyone. And it remains in full and glorious bloom into October when frost usually kills many bloomers, but there are always a few plants in flower after the Bridge officially closes on October 30.
But now anyone can check the bloom seasons because new pages on the spruced up website (www.bridgeofflowersmass.org) list all the hundreds of blooming bulbs, trees, shrubs, and perennials in their season. You will be astonished by the variety of bloom when you look at the list, which will soon include some photographs as well. For those who would like to take a virtual walk through the seasons on the Bridge of Flowers they can scroll through the posts for the past year on Facebook. Just remember every year is a little different. We are all complaining this year about the long cold spring that has made many plants decide to sleep a little longer than usual.
Greenfield Garden Club
I am also a member of the Greenfield Garden Club, and our efforts to beautify and educate the community are not always so visible because they are more dispersed.
One of our most important projects is giving grants to schools for garden projects. This year Mohawk High School, as well as schools in Leverett, Shutesbury, Gill, Conway, Colrain, Heath, Leyden, the 8th grade at Greenfield High School, and the Wheeler Library in Orange have been awarded funding for projects as various as an edible garden, a greenhouse project and a Monarch Waystation. I have served on the grant committee and it is always inspiring to see the ways that teachers fit gardens into various parts of the curriculum, and the fun the students have as they learn and gain some very practical skills.
In addition the Greenfield Garden Club works with the DPW and the Greenfield Rejuvenators, a community group devoted to the beautification of downtown. The garden club is funding the planting of containers on the medians on Main Street, Bank Row and Deerfield Street. Greenfield is getting a lot of sprucing up and the garden club is a part of that.
So how do the Bridge of Flowers and the Greenfield Garden Club fund these worthy projects? They organize plant sales!
The Greenfield Garden Club Annual Extravaganza will take place today, Saturday, May 10 from 8 am until 1 pm at the TrapPlainGarden at the intersection of Federal Silver Streets. This garden is maintained by club members. Today it will also be filled with potted perennials for sale, as well as a selection of annuals and hanging baskets from Spatcher Farms. Just in time for Mother’s Day. There will also be a raffle of garden related items like tools, and a tag sale where you can find some real bargains for the garden.
The Bridge of Flowers Annual Plant Sale will be held on Saturday, May 17 from 9 am til noon. In addition to perennials off the Bridge, there will be a wide assortment of annuals from LaSalles, wildflowers from Hillside Nursery, vendors selling tools, books, and other garden related items. Shoppers will also be able to refresh themselves with a snack and drink from the food table. This is the single fundraising event for the Bridge.
The Greenfield Garden Club and the Bridge of Flowers Committee are both committed to making our communities more beautiful. Making them more beautiful also makes them more attractive to visitors, and to businesses. So, shop at the plant sales and beautify your own landscape, and beautify the community at the same time. ###
Between the Rows May 10, 2014
Ready for planting in the vegetable garden
Dear Friend and Gardener: Even though I have planted seeds in the vegetable garden, and a few seedlings that I started in the guestroom a few weeks ago, I can never resist buying a few starts at the garden center. I can never have enough parsley in the summer, and I don’t need very much chard, and I just want a headstart on the tender basil – so purchased starts are needed. Tomorrow should be perfect planting weather with clouds and showers predicted. I also bought ‘Evolution’ an annual blue salvia, my traditional edging around the Shed Bed which holds the roses Belle Amour, Mary Rose, Leda, and Mrs. Doreen Pike. The rose are very slowly coming out of hibernation so it is too early to tell how much winter kill there has been.
Early garden for vegetables in front of the house.
I did plant seeds (and forgot to note the date – Earth Day?) which are starting to come up in the bed closest to the house – Early Rapini, Purple Top White Globe turnips, Patty’s Choice lettuce and Ruby and Emerald Duet lettuce – all from Renee’s Garden. I can see tiny plants coming up in rows so the variable weather did not deter these cool season crops. I also planted a few cippolini onions from Dixondale Farms. The main vegetable garden and onion beds are down in the Potager. A neighbor is running a kind of one man coop and he puts together a bulk order of various kinds of onions and leeks. On Saturday I planted more seeds – DiCicco broccoli, Bloomsdale Spinach and more lettuces, again from Renee, in the more southern bed. Those planting take me beyond the crest of the bank where a collection of daylilies is planted. I’ll plant Renee’s Garden Vanilla Berry nasturtiums as the transition between vegetables and daylilies. Nasturtiums act as a really good groundcover, keeping down the weeds, and lots of biomass in the fall to put in the compost pile. In addition, I can eat the flowers, leaves and seeds.
Pansy studded salad
Then in the summer my salads might resemble this one. Today was the day we priced the 1000 perennials that will be sold on Saturday at the Bridge of Flowers Annual Plant Sale. Lynda Leitner who has been giving the plants tender loving care and watering over the past month put our little subcommittee in a good mood with a beautiful lunch that included this charming salad.
This is my first post as a new member of Dear Friend and Gardener, the virtual edible garden club started by Dee Nash, Carol Michel and Mary Ann Newcomer. I have had a vegetable garden for many years, but I am planning to learn a lot from the other members!
Van Sion daffodils
These Van Sion antique daffodils are strong growers. So strong that they persist in blooming in a rose bush no matter how many time I try to dig them out.
No matter. I am glad to see them blooming. They are the earliest of my daffs, but a few others are coming into bloom. And if daffodils are blooming in Heath it must be time for plant sales.
The first plant sale is organized by The Greenfield Garden Club and will be held at the Trap Plain Garden at the intersection of Federal and Silver Streets on Saturday, May 10 from 8 am – 1 pm. Perennials from members gardens will be on offer, as well as annuals from Spatcher’s Farm, a garden tag sale and a raffle with wonderful prizes like this set of heavy duty hand tools.
DeWit hand tools
Bring a soil sample from your garden and have it tested by a Master Gardener! This annual Extravaganza sale raises money to fund grants that the Garden Club awards to schools in their area. This year they funded garden projects at the schools in Buckland, Leverett, Shutesbury, Gill, Conway, Colrain, Heath, Leyden, and Greenfield High School as well as the Wheeler Library in Orange. The Club is also funding the containers that will be planted and placed on the median on Main Street, Bank Row and Deerfield Street. If you buy plants or other items at this sale you’ll be beautifying your garden, while you beatify the community.
Next week, Saturday May 17, the Bridge of Flowers will hold its Annual Plant Sale from 9 am – noon at the Trinity Church’s Baptist Lot on Main Street in Shelburne Falls. Perennials off the Bridge, annuals from LaSalles, and many beautiful and useful things brought by vendors like OESCO which sells sturdy useful tools.
Winterfare Market February, 2012
For some people the initials CSA are just another of those annoying acronyms that can make our conversations sound like an unintelligible inter-office memo. For some CSA means Community Supported Agriculture which encompasses delicious local food, help for the farmer, and a community of like-minded folk who enjoy fresh food, and enjoy knowing they are supporting farmers and farms, and the very land and environment that surrounds us.
Small farmers never think they are going to get rich doing what they love. They only hope they won’t go broke after a bad season. In the 1980s a new idea came on the scene when the first community supported agriculture farms were first organized. The idea is that people would buy shares in the farm and its harvest at the beginning of the growing year, essentially sharing the risks the farmer would face over the course of the season. Would there be flooding rains? Drought? Would blight kill all the tomatoes? Mother Nature can throw all kinds of disasters at a farmer. CSA members are essentially buying the harvest as crops are planted and becoming a part of a community – a “we’re all in this together” community sharing the risk, the worry and the joys of the farm.
When I first became aware of Community Supported Agriculture some years ago, there were not many CSA farms or people buying shares. The organizational elements were fairly standard. An individual or family would buy a share in the spring, and then as the May and June harvest started coming in they would pick up their weekly boxed or bagged share of greens, beans, radishes and vegetables of every type in season. Because man does not live by carrot alone, many CSAs also included a bouquet of summer flowers.
Now there are many more CSAs in our area. I spoke with Phil Korman, Executive Director of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) who said that in the three counties, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden, in 2009 there were about 4550 farm shares sold, but in 2012 that number had increased to about 7300 farm shares sold. Some of those shares were to people outside the three counties. The expectation is that the number has continued to increase but statistics are only collected every five years. Korman pointed out that those farm shares did not include winter shares which are now available.
In fact, there are now many more kinds of CSA shares that people can buy. In addition to the regular vegetable garden shares, there are shares for meat, fish, eggs, flowers, and grain.
The last few years have seen other changes in CSA distributions. Originally, a shareholder paid up, and then picked up that share weekly at the farm. Nowadays CSA shares can be delivered to various sites including schools, retirement communities, and work sites.CooleyDickinsonHospitalallows staff to pay for their share with a payroll deduction, and the share is delivered to the hospital. Some people share a share with a neighbor
Hager’s Farm Market and Upinngill Farm sell vouchers. The Hager vouchers are dated for use throughout the season, but they can be used at the Market on Route 2 in Shelburne with the shareholder making his own choices, for produce or pies, eggs or yogurt. Upinngill’s vouchers are not dated. Several can be used at one time. In both cases, at the Hager Farm Market and the Upinngill farmstand, the vouchers provide for a discount, so you are saving money, as well as getting wonderful produce.
There are 15 CSA farms inFranklinCounty, inGreenfield, Montague, Gill, Leyden, Colrain,Sunderland, Ashfield, Whately, and Berndarston. Each CSA farm delivers its share one day a week. All of them are now signing up shareholders for the 2014 season.
Western Massachusettshas been “an incredibly receptive community” to desiring and buying local farm products Korman said. The first local, and now longest running CSA farm is Brookfield Farm inAmherst. The first Winterfare was created inGreenfieldby volunteers just a few years ago. Now farmers plant winter storage crops for the 30 winter farmers markets that are ongoing across the state. CISA was the first non-profit organization in the state and created the Local Hero marketing project.
Currently there are 55 Local Hero restaurants using local produce for a total of about $2 million a year. There are also 240 Local Hero farms. They sold between 2002 and 2007 $4.5 million worth of farm products, but that amount has now doubled to $9 million. Food coops account for $16 million in sales. Right now in the three counties between 10%-15% of our food is fresh local food, but CISA’s goal is to have 25% of our food grown and enjoyed locally.
I was shocked that we are eating so little local food, but Korman gently pointed out that the whole population ofFranklinCountyis only half the population of the city ofSpringfield. I can see that it will be a great day when everyone inSpringfieldgets 25% of their dinners from local farms. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone lives in our beautiful and fertile valley or near a hilltown farm where fresh food is available for a good part of the year.
It’s finally getting warmer. It’s time to think about fresh salads, grilled vegetables and corn on the cob. It’s time to think about the possibility of joining a Community Supported Agriculture farm.
You can find a full listing and information about local CSA farms on the CISA website. http://www.buylocalfood.org/buy-local/find-local/csa-farm-listing/
Between the Rows April 5, 2014
Susan Valentine – Hosta blossom
Before she began painting flowers Susan Valentine was a gardener.
“Focusing on what each plant needs and what it produces if it gets what it needs was what I thought about most of my waking hours. Painting their portraits came very naturally out of that process,” she said when I asked how she came to paint these translucent blossoms.
Flowers have always been a popular subject for painters. They are varied in color and form – and they sit still. Susan’s flowers are often large and glamorous, with light shining through the petals and foliage. For me the way she handles light, in her flower portraits or landscapes, is what I find most amazing and delightful
Susan Valentine’s hydrangea
Susan Valentine’s paintings, including these two, are currently on display at Hope and Olive Restaurant in Greenfield until the end of April. There will be a reception on April 20 from 3-5 pm.
In addition she will be exhibiting at the Northampton Coop Bank in Amherst.This is a group show that includes work by Sandy Walsh, Karen Chapman, Mari Rovang, Phil Schuster and Marti Olmstead. This exhibit will also run through April.
Finally, her work will be exhibited at the Greenfield Community College Student Art Show that will be up from April 17 through May 9. This show is always great fun. I love knowing our community is so rich in talented and skilled people. For more about Susan, her life and work, click here, to read an article written by Mary McClintock for The Recorder. Both images here courtesy of SusanValentine.
Sheila Litchfield in the Dell
The Heath Agricultural Society gave us all a chance to go exploring the cellars and caves of our neighbors this past Saturday. Root cellars, cider cellars and a cheese cave. Who could resist this opportunity? Over 50 people signed up for this tour, many of them from towns beyond Heath. Even Springfield! I took one group around beginning with Sheila Litchfield who first explained the basics of cheesemaking. Chemistry. Bacteria. Sheila is a nurse so she knows all about bacteria. When Sheila isn’t milking her three goats to make cheese, serving as Rowe’s town nurse, and serving as a member of Heath’s selectboard, she spends ‘her spare’ time canning the produce from the large Litchfield garden. Oh, and she also gives cheesemaking workshops!
Sheila built her cheese cave in the cellar. Here, with carefully monitored temperature and humidity, she stores cheese that needs aging. She explained that she can only have one kind of cheese in this small cave, because the different cheese bacterias will infect each other, to the benefit of neither.
Litchfield Root storage
Our group got a bonus! Sheila showed us how she stores root vegetables, in crocks, on the bulkhead stairs. Not too much left at this time of year.
Andrew at Benson Place Blueberry Farm
Then it was off to the Benson Place Blueberry Farm, where noted artist Robert Strong Woodward often painted, and where I often took young grandsons to pick their own low bush blueberries. Andrew and his family have been farming here for three years. When the basement was given a cement floor in the 1960′s a corner space was left unpaved, in expectation of a root cellar. Andrew finally finished the root cellar which now has two cement foundation walls, and two walls built of rigid silvery insulation panels, extra fiberglass insulation and heavy weight black plastic. His root cellar has a window which makes it possible, with the help of flexible ductwork, to bring extra air circulation. At this point Andrew says they buy bulk vegetables from farms like Atlas Farm to store. They also use the root cellar for other foods like yogurt and meat when the refrigerator is too full.
Draxler root cellar
Andy and Sue Draxler could not put their root cellar in the cellar because their furnace made that space too warm. They poured a cement floor in their large garage/workshop, but left one corner unpaved to provide the necessary moisture for their root cellar. While Andrew’s root cellar is a little room with a window, the Draxlers built what is essentially a large closet. It is divided in two, with the intention of providing dry cold storage on one side, and moist cold storage on the other. That has not worked out as they expected, and both sides are quite moist. Sue Draxler explained are working on a fix for that. They do have their potatoes on one side and apples on the other. These two should never be stored together because the apples produce ethylene gas as they ripen, and this will cause the potatoes to sprout more quickly. Like, Andrew, the Draxlers have very little left in their root cellar at this time of the year. Sheila, Andrew and Sue all acknowledged that they had some produce loss because of the extremely cold temperatures for an extended period this year, made it impossible to keep root cellar temperatures above 32 degrees. Generally speaking root cellars should be keep between 40 and 55 degrees.
Bob Bourke and his cider press
After root cellars, we went off to explore cider cellars. Hard cider, that is. Bob Bourke took everyone down to his cellar to show his equipment and fermenting carboys of cider. Then we all went up to the porch to see his cider press. Bob bought his house and property about five or six years ago and was happy that it came with a cider orchard. He has 45 trees of various apple cultivars like Golden Russets, Baldwins, Northern Spy, Gravensteins, Jonathans and others. Good, complex ciders depend on a flavorful mix of apples. Making cider also depends on controlling the yeasts, which means cleanliness and isolation in air-locked barrels and carboys. Bob explained that it is not really difficult to make cider, but cleanliness is vital. It is also very timeconsuming when it is time to sterilize the bottles, fill and cap them. He gave out samples to our thirsty crew.
Doug Mason in his cider cellar
Doug Mason gets most of his apples from Bob. They do a lot of work – and tasting – together. He has some additional equipment that we hadn’t seen at Bob’s. To cut down on the time required for washing and sterilizing bottles, he has bought several stainless steel kegs, like those that beer comes in. Much easier to clean a keg than bottles for an equal amount of beer. He also has a bottling and capping gadget that, with a two man crew, makes this operation fairly quick. He also gave out samples. Warming! And very nice. This cider cellar is about 50 degrees. Chilly. Doug ferments his cider in the barrel for about a year or so, then bottles it, and keeps it for another year. Bob’s cellar is warmer, and it takes the cider longer to mature in Doug’s colder cellar. So much to learn.
Back at the Community Hall we could warm up. Hours spent talking about food and drink prepared us for a fabulous lunch, chilis, soups, breads, pies and cider! All prepared for tour participants by members of the Heath Agricultural Society. That is Justin Lively, Society President, in the center rear of the photo. Lots of enthusiastic conversations! The big question? What other kinds of tours can we have in Heath? What kinds of tours might other towns create?