It all started in 2012, when we bought the harvest rights for about eight apple trees near the graveyard in Kleineicholzheim. The Gemeinde (the local authority) would auction off the rights to trees owned by them every year. That year it was just my wife and an old man at the auction, a sign that interest in the bounty of local fruit trees was not high in peoples’ minds. But we got the right to harvest from these trees for the princely sum of €10, and from these I made our first cider. It was ok, but my home brewed beer was better.
But the seeds had been planted so in 2014, when our postman mentioned that his mother wanted to sell a small orchard plot, we jumped at the chance. The plot had about 30 fruit trees and had been uncared for for quite a few years. But in 2015 we got our first harvest, and took the apples to a “Safterei” in a nearby village to get pressed, and we made our first proper cider in decent quantities. 202 litres from 285kg apples. And you know what? The cider wasn’t bad at all! The following year we bought and restored an old spindle press and hand mill, as well as a couple of old oak barrels, and the adventure continued, pressing ourselves by hand, and experimenting with different yeast sorts and our first keeved cider, which was a great success.
In late 2017 (sadly after the harvest) we were offered another orchard plot just beside our existing one, but this time twice the size with about 60 trees. Sitting on the edge of tillage, it was an easy decision as we wanted more trees but also wanted to be sure a farmer wouldn’t buy it and fell the trees to extend the tillage, as had happened elsewhere in the larger plantation of which our plots were just a part, This meant that in 2018, despite the drought conditions, we had a bumper harvest and pressed more than 2500kg of fruit, plus nearly 400kg of donated quince. We had acquired yet another press, double the capacity of our previous one, and a mill that we could run with an electric motor. The greater quantities of fruit and more efficient processing meant we could also start experimenting with single variety ciders, as well as more keeving and yeast experiments. The neighbourhood was quite happy with this!
Towards the end of 2018 we were yet again asked if we would like to buy another plot, directly adjoining the plots we already owned, This time it would double the size of our holdings, a large plot that had been abandoned for 10 or more years at least. I initially refused as I felt we had enough work with our near 90 trees but yet again, as it adjoined tillage and the price was very fair, we decided to go for it. The reasoning was that we could leave it as it was and maybe harvest a little from it when needed. But of course that didn’t happen, and in 2019, after purchasing, we began to thin things out and sowed a flower meadow, but we will come back to that in another post.
All of this has all been meant more work, more apples and of course more cider. More than we and our thirsty neighbours could drink over the long, hot summers. So with encouragement from friends and neighbours, the decision was made to start selling, Not an easy path to navigate, but here we are now. We don’t expect to get rich, we just want to try and cover the costs of what we are doing. Every bottle of cider sold helps us maintain and expand our natural orchard and other planting actions, while hopefully giving a glass of enjoyment to the purchaser.
Our ciders are available at the local Besen, where they have been well received, and we hope that we can continue to increase the volume and range, and keep those thirst neighbours happy too,