Notes from AppleGarden
Things are looking up this year! We have a nice start to a normal (for us!) winter...the ground is nice and damp under the trees and the pruning went well. Nascent buds are just beginning to show up on the trees; hopefully we'll have a beautiful bloom!
We're looking forward to having many visitors to the orchard this year; Lou has a nice grassy open space with picnic tables for our guests to enjoy having lunch after touring the trees.
We're also looking forward to the many activities in the area; we love that our cider goes so well with the local cheese. With the many artisan makers in our area, we hope that visitors have a chance for a truly "local" adventure by pairing our cider with the many lovely cheeses!
We're open every weekend from "bloom-time to rain" this season, so be sure to stop by.
It's hard to believe that this year is nearly done. My last post was at the end of the 2016 harvest; we are now finishing up 2017. It's been a year of challenges, starting out with the VERY wet spring. The trees had a heavy bloom but the rain kept the bees inside so no pollination on several of the varieties. The trees that did form apples had so many of them (we don't thin...) that the fruit was all fairly small and a LOT of it!!
We rejoiced during the summer thinking that we'd have a bumper crop to press into juice, and then the heat wave came. It basically cooked the fruit on the tree...big "blister" sunspots on the top of the fruit and smaller damage where the fruit just got too hot. Well, that's farming for you! The cows in the pasture next door really appreciated all the fruit we were unable to use; when they hear Lou's tractor coming they run to greet him! We did end up with some really nice juice; we'll have plenty of cider for next year and have a winter to recuperate!
We've been enjoying all of the guests visiting the farm! Explaining how our "new" press works, showing off Lou's home-built equipment gives everyone a true sense of our unique operation. With the new picnic tables in the orchard, we also welcome visitors who want to "stay awhile" and relax. We definitely look forward to the next year's activities!
August is usually just the start of our harvest season. We normally begin picking towards the end of August with the early apples: Transcendent Crab, Sweet Bough, and Victoria Limbertwig and proceed slowly and gradually into picking the later apples. Not this year! We started picking the "early" apples the middle part of July and actually began fermenting the first of August. The rest of the apples appear to all be about two or three weeks ahead of schedule...so now we're starting to pick the mid-season apples...Egremont Russet, Nehou, and all the rest of the crabapples. It's going to be a hectic pressing and fermenting couple of months! It looks like we'll finish up well before Thanksgiving so will still be contending with yellow jackets which are fierce this year in the orchard.
We were so pleased with our new bottling operation; we actually got everything all finished up with the 2015 harvest a couple of weeks ago before starting the 2016 harvest. Lou's new pasteurizer makes all the difference in the world; if you're interested, you can take a look at it during one of our tours.
Speaking of which, we are now offering tours and tastings here on the farm, as well as cider sales. These have been very popular since so many people are interested in the actual making of cider. We are happy to provide private tours and tastings by reservation for groups of folks during the week; the farm and tasting room is open for visitors (weather permitting) "from bloom to picking" every week-end.
We were *THRILLED* to be awarded a silver medal during the Dan Berger International Cider Competition...a great feeling to know our cider style is appreciated by these acclaimed and knowledgeable judges.
We look forward to seeing more visitors in the weeks ahead...be sure to stop in if you're in the area!
Well, 2015 is finally over; 2016 is off to a roaring start! Lou and I are so pleased that the rain has begun; our 2015 harvest was much lighter than the year before, but the trees are looking good and we're hopeful that we'll catch up this year. We are delighted to tell everyone that our cider is quite popular with everyone...we were honored to receive a silver medal during the 2015 California State Fair, and a bronze medal at the California Cider Competition.
We are also happy to expand our sales to some new customers, as well as being grateful to our loyal fans in West Marin. Thank you! You can now find us at many of the local restaurants and fine retail shops by checking our AppleGarden Farm web page.
This year's activities include modernizing our equipment a little: Lou is building a larger pasteurizer and we are so pleased with the press he built last spring that we're actually thinking of increasing our production...but still keeping to our philosophy of staying small and continuing to produce only what we can manage while having fun!
We've enjoyed so many guests at AppleGarden Cottage this last year that we've decided to include tours of the farm and cidery for people just interested in our cider. We offer tastings and tours each Saturday from "bloom" to "harvest" for anyone who'd like to see what we're up to...please e-mail us for a reservation. We are happy to introduce everyone to the magic of simple organic apple juice fermented to a delicious hard cider. Cheers!
It's hard to believe that time has gone so quickly...we've been SOOO busy this past year I've almost forgotten to write about it. The 2014 harvest was spectacular: we have 900 gallons of cider fermenting for this coming year. We're also incredibly happy that AppleGarden Farm Hard Cider is now featured in so many restaurants: the Marshall Store & Oyster Bar (did you see their taco lunch on the cover of Sunset Magazine?); and in Osteria Stellina, our favorite Italian restaurant in Point Reyes Station. We have some new locations too: Sir&Star in Olema, Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness, Farmshop Marin in Larkspur (and Santa Monica!) and at Rocker Oysterfeller's in Valley Ford. We also can be found at a couple of retail outlets: Marin French Cheese Factory just outside of Petaluma, and Cowgirl Creamery down in PRS. So, get your cider on and come taste some!
The guest house has been a great favorite: booking up early is now very important if you have a special date to celebrate...we don't want any of our friends to miss an important event! You can also get a gift certificate to send to someone special! Looking forward to seeing everyone soon...
We've just starting bottling the harvest from last fall. It's going to be a very delicious year for everyone who enjoys hard cider! Crisp and slightly effervescent, it is the perfect accompaniment to our local cheese. Today's special treat is some of Marin French Cheese...young brie (also known as "breakfast cheese!")
We've been enjoying strolling through the orchard with the chickens. There's something so wonderful about seeing the joy that chickens have in exploring for bugs!
This year is one to conserve water...with the ongoing drought, using a probe to test moisture at the roots, we'll be carefully making sure that every drop of water will be really needed by the trees before turning on the drip system. Cheers!
We've finally reached the warm weather. It looks like we're getting a pretty good set on the apples: a few varieties aren't going to be very heavy this year due to the weird spring, but the russet-types look good. Cider is now at several locations in addition to the Tomales Deli...you can find us at Marshall Store, Tomales Bay Foods/Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, and Perry's Inverness Park Grocery. We're also being served at the recently re-opened Sir & Star at the intersection of Sir Francis Drake Blvd and Shoreline Highway in Olema. Get a bottle and try some! It goes so well with all of the local cheeses as well as oysters. The bottles are 22 oz sizes that are perfect for a picnic: a couple of glasses is just right. Let us know how you like it!
The trees are waking up and starting to bloom...right now, the only open blossoms are on the Transcendant crab trees but before long, the entire orchard will be covered in flowers. The bees are stirring from the hives more and more each day getting ready to pollinate so we have a good crop this year.
We hope that there's a few more days of rain to help the ground stay nice and damp! Lou's put in a lot of mulch to hold as much moisture as possible. The winter has been very dry: we got a lot of rain in December but almost nothing since then except for a few showers in March. We've been bottling lots of cider!! Our cider was included in the Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma and featured with Marin French Cheese's display during one of the tours. It's now being stocked there, as well as at the Marshall Store and at Cowgirl Creamery Cantina in Point Reyes Station. Of course you can always stop by the farm and get some here if you're in the area but be sure to call or e-mail first to make sure that we're here to greet you!
The storms let up a bit...now we have some drier weather to get more trees planted! The trees came bare-root in big cardboard boxes delivered by UPS. Lou planted another seventy (70) cider-apple trees with a lot of help from the hens...we now have several more Foxwhelp, Nehou, Tremlett's Bitter and Yarlington Mill along with more Wickson Crab.
We discovered that the ground we'd prepared this fall was full of worms and grubs; the chickens were so delighted they followed Lou everywhere. I can't really say it made things go any more quickly but was definitely a lot of fun seeing all of the excitement. Chickens have a wonderful time when the worms appear!
The cider is coming along nicely! We'll be bottling again in a couple of weeks and will have some ready for tasting after that.
We're looking forward to seeing all of our friends again early this spring; remember to let us know when you're coming!
Cinderella Pumpkin: perfect for pie!
It's hard to believe that summer is over. With all the apples in the cooler, we've started cider-making. About once a week, we press apples and put the juice in the 30-gallon fermenting barrel. The "cider room" smells so good with the fermenting apples!
We've gathered up all the winter squash and pumpkins and are ready for a winter's batch of pumpkin pie and roasted butternut squash. Along with some braised chard, we're set for the winter! The bees are humming quietly inside the hive and the last flowers of summer are fading. We hope to have a beautiful wet winter and be ready for planting more trees in January!
We can feel fall in the air and smell the apples ripening. We've started picking the early apples along with the bittersweet crab apples for cider. It takes somewhere around 400 lbs. of apples to make a barrel of juice. We ferment in 30-gallon batches and can hardly wait to get started! The next several weeks will be busy with picking; pressing and fermenting will start sometime during the first of October. For a real adventure, guests staying here will be able to help...along with sampling some of the great cider ready from last year's crop. Plan to visit the farm for more information!!
The orchard is in full bloom at last! All the apple and pear trees have awakened from the winter cold and are getting ready to have a bumper crop (fingers crossed!).
The bees are busily flying back and forth from the hives and the smell of the honey inside is intoxicating on a warm day. We have two borrowed hives from the good people at Beekind in Sebastopol, and another new hive we've put in by the garden area. Lou's getting ready to plant the veggies...so far all we've had for dinner is artichokes; very tasty but I'm ready for peas and squash blossoms!
It seems like spring is upon us. According to the calendar, it should have been a couple of weeks ago, but with the dry winter and then the late March rains, everything appears mixed up. The chickens are running around in the orchard, wading through a stream of water looking for bugs (the bugs must be swimming...!) along with the buttercups blooming.
The peach trees bloomed early before any bees were out and about so we probably won't have any peaches this year; same thing with the crab-apples and the plums. The trees look pretty though!
The main orchard is just now starting to show bloom with a few bees starting to venture forth. Hoping for a large apple crop this year to make more of our cider!
Finally, some rain! We planted another group of 30 trees a few days ago. Hard cider varieties: Kingston Black, Roxbury Russet, Nehou and some more crab-apples so that our cider has a more rounded, complex taste. The cider is coming along really nicely; I had a taste and it was so delicious! Cold and dry with a hint of apple. We had some with our BBQ'd oysters and it was wonderful.
I can hardly wait for next year's crop to be ready to press! Now if the bees only cooperate -- we lost our honey bees last fall. Unbeknownst to us, the queen vanished and all the workers left one day...the little rascals left their beautiful hive and all their stored up provisions and just absconded! We're going to try again, but in the meantime, plan to try some Blue Orchard Bees. We'll keep you posted!
It's hard to believe 2011 is almost over...the farm is doing well! We have another thirty trees coming in a couple of weeks; it'll be good to get them in the ground before the heavy rains make it too muddy! The cider is coming along nicely--it's still very young and hasn't developed full flavors yet, but has a lot of potential. I'm already looking forward to next year's ferment with some ideas to try! Finally the licensing is almost done so we'll be able to sell some of next year's batch! Plan to bring your "growlers" for refills!
We also ended up with some really nice pears!! I made the mistake of putting them all in the walk-in with the apples, so they ripened all at once... fortunately Lou was able to help me peel them and I canned four dozen jars. I put in part of a vanilla bean in each jar when I packed in the pears and they turned out so delicious!! I'll be sure to share them with all our guests...
I hope everyone has the best new year ever!! I'm looking forward to welcoming all our old friends back to the farm, and adding new friends as well. Cheers!!
Rain already...I can't believe that summer is really over! We've been picking apples, LOTS of apples. With half of the harvest done, there are over 1200 lbs of apples in the walk-in, along with an early start to the pears. We tried out the cider equipment and are getting some idea of how much work it's going to take. Lou is chief press operator...
Finally! The end of summer, which means the apples are ripening. Lou started picking today...I'm still recovering from my leg being in a cast, so am just "watching and commenting." The apples are sweet and juicy and there are lots of yellow-jackets walking around; the chickens don't seem to mind though! I thought they'd help by catching them, but no such luck...so Lou is VERY careful when picking not to grab where those darn things are eating! This chicken is Lou's helper, watching carefully to see if there are any earwigs. They LOVE earwigs! We're going to start pressing as soon as we get enough apples to make about 25 gallons of juice. The little cider press is going to get a work-out!
I recently returned from an apple-cider workshop in Mt. Vernon, Washington. These folks know their cider! I'm talking about the "hard stuff" since real cider is similar to wine and beer. I think it's more refreshing! With some of the sweetness of the apples, along with less alcohol, you can enjoy it with lots of different foods. It goes particularly well with artisan cheeses and fresh bread. Think about Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese along with a crusty loaf of bread from Tomales Bakery...yummy! You can look forward to some cider tastings later this year; we'll be offering samples to our guests and other local folks at various events here in Tomales. Cheers!
The garden is growing nicely...rows of lettuce and radishes are ready for picking. The peas are just starting to climb up the wire; last year we had peas all summer. They were so good in salads and sauteed with a little butter and added to new potatoes. That's the guest house you see in the background; a wonderful view for my wonderful guests!
And these are future strawberries...just getting ripe! Lou discovered the pesky sparrows were getting in and helping themselves so covered the bed with pipe and plastic mesh. I'm looking forward to lots of strawberry shortcake...and jam for the winter! He makes the very best jam!!!
The garden is started...very tiny plants are coming up! Arugula, my favorite salad green will be ready to toss with a honey-vinaigrette along with some sliced strawberries in just a couple of weeks! Tasty...
And the chickens! Back to full laying again, they insist on having their favorite nest box-even if it means waiting their turn. Sometimes they stand around complaining loudly until the first hen gets off the nest, crowding each other and angrily pecking the head of the laying chicken. You'd think they'd go to the next empty place, but it doesn't seem to work that way...
The apple blossoms are coming on so many at a time that the bees are busy from morning to night...looking forward to seeing what kind of crop we get this year!
As I walked in the orchard this morning; the chickens went with me.
The apple trees were blooming; some of the chickens were sprawled out under the trees like a pile of puppies. They all jumped up when they saw me and ran over to see if I had any bugs. These chickens love bugs...
The whole orchard is humming with activity. Looking closely, you can see bees and other little flying creatures crawling and buzzing around the blossoms, ensuring that there'll be fruit this summer. The wondrous sounds of spring!
Spring! Finally it's stopped raining and the flowers are coming out. The chickens are running around in the orchard peering intently at all the water coming out of the gopher holes. Lou walked around the driveway this morning picking up worms (!!) out of the driveway and put them into the flower boxes. I'm not sure the robins appreciated this! The next thing we're going to do is put in the bee-hives. This will be a new and exciting venture for both of us -- Lou'll be all suited up and ready to go, open up the hive to see what the bees are doing, and I'll be standing back waiting...waiting...RUNNING to get whatever it was he forgot!!