RG 2007 July
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
It's all slowed down
It seems unreal now, looking back to those warm days of April. Back then the sales of cider suddenly took off and I had a job to keep up with the deliveries. I quite expected to run out in July but instead I still have 1000 litres left. The culprit is the continuous wet and horrible weather that we've had since then. Several Landlords have commented on their drop in sales of beer and cider. I noted from a newspaper that pub sales generally, are 5 % down on this time last year.
Owermoigne Cider Museum
However it was also interesting to note an opposite effect. Penny Whatmore who runs the shop at Owermoigne Cider Museum rang me to order more cases of my bottled cider. I had not expected that she would need some more so soon and I expressed my surprise. Penny told me that a bad summer is actually good for their business. People down here on holiday tend to look for attractions away from the coast when the weather is poor. Places to visit that are under cover are especially appealing. I can say that regarding the Cider Museum they would not be disappointed. There is a fine collection of really old scratters and presses etc. This includes a well preserved horse driven mill with a large circular trough. Its overhead gear and shafts are still in good condition. There is also what must be the biggest cider press ever made. It has one enormous beam that must be about 15 feet or more in length. Instead of being parallel to the cheese in the normal way, this beam is pivoted at one end like a huge hinge. Pressure is brought to bear on the cheese which is below the other end of the beam, by allowing the great weight of the beam to bear down upon it. The museum also has a nice little shop that has a good range of bottled ciders and perries from a fair number of craft producers. It is well worth a visit if you are in the area even if it isn't raining! I should add that if you also happen to be a plantaholic, like me, there is also an excellent plant nursery there.
The tank room, that was the wood shed here, is now empty as I've pumped the last 1000 litres into the packaging cum press room. I'm not worried about being able to sell this. More than half of the 50 boxes that it represents have already been booked, either for festivals or by pubs that do not want to run out during the peak holiday month of August.
What has been a far greater worry has been the serious illness of Frances that has been developing over the last two months. I am greatly relieved that this week she has had successful surgery and am hopeful that she will now be able to make a full recovery. Over this period it has been necessary for me to take over the household duties which has meant that the already neglected garden has become even more so. It has also been important to plan my cider deliveries for the greatest efficiency. Usually it has been possible to arrange to top up a number of pubs in the same area on the same day. This has worked rather well.
The extra demand on my time will continue into the Autumn so I can see that cider making will be more fraught than usual. Nevertheless I've every intention of doing my 70 hl once again. The unfortunate thing is that further engineering of the elevator system must be put on hold until next year. This presents a dilemma because there is now an even greater need to reduce the time taken by cider making as well as the labour involved. I cannot be shoveling and lifting all those apples like I did last year. It is too long winded and back aching. The house work will also need to be be sandwiched between the cider batches. I've come up with an interim solution.
The tipping trailer recently acquired has been cleaned up and painted ( in St. Em blue, naturally! ). Those of you who have been here will recall that the cider house is at one end of the barn and the garage is at the other end. The room in between them is a conservatory, I intend to reverse each trailer load of apples into the garage. The apples will be progressively tipped into the half IBC wash tank I used last year; so no shoveling. The wash tank will contain a mesh cage. When the apples have been washed, this cage will be pulled upwards by a ceiling mounted electric hoist allowing the apples to drain; so no lifting. The mill will be situated at the side of the wash tank so that apples from the elevated cage can be fed directly into the mill hopper. Pomace leaving the mill will drop into a large poly box that is sitting on an elevated table trolley. It just remains to push the trolley through the conservatory and into the press room. The trolley table is then pumped up on its scissor arms so that the pomace box is level with the bed of the press. Loading the cheese must still be done using the jolly red Vigo scoop, but then you can't have everything!
I shall report on the success or shortcomings of this idea when I'm either blessing or cursing it, in due course.
Positive Displacement Pump
Before I had the idea of using an elevating table trolley to move the pomace from the mill to the press, I had been trying for several weeks to obtain a positive displacement pump. I've long thought what a good solution to the problem these are, since seeing the one that Julian has installed at Burrow Hill. Barry is also going to use one this year with his new setup. If I could only pump the pomace into the stainless hopper that I've already installed above the press, it would achieve everything that was intended of the elevator system. The vital but laborious Vigo scoop would then be virtually redundant and there would be no more moving of heavy containers full of pomace. Happiness!
These pumps are available secondhand, usually as superfluous machinery from the food industry. The problem is that it is rare to find one that does not need 3 phase electricity. They are also usually rather powerful, 11 kw being typical. I've been looking for what seems like the 'hen's tooth' version that will run on single phase and consume in the region of 1 - 3 kw. Vigo have them in their catalogue and although this states that single phase is available, on making an enquiry they told me that the manufacturers no longer supply this version.
If anyone has one of these that they would like to sell, or if they happen to know of someone else who does, please contact me by email.
Barry recommended Winkworth and also Centriplant to me as possible sources. Centriplant's offerings are all 3 ph but I did notice the 2 kw ones at Winkworth. The voltage spec caught my eye since it mentions mentions 230v as well as 415v. I have emailed them to ask if single phase operation is possible. I may find out tomorrow. As Ni suggests the other option is to get a convertor, but that is an unwanted complication and adds considerably to the cost. Maybe as a last resort I will consider it.
Thank you both for your help,
I'm trying hard to keep my electronic engineering dormant, though it is tempting to reach out for the AVO and soldering iron now and again! The new career now takes every bit of time available! Nevertheless I found your links about generating a 3 ph. supply to be very interesting. I will file the info away in case of temptation!
Actually I've looked on ebay from time to time and seen the solid state convertor boxes at reasonable prices, which is probably the way I will go if I have to. In spite of Andrew's kind remark, I'm not really all that good at mechanical things like uniting motors and gearboxes.
At present I am still hopeful of finding a single phase version and have put out quite a few enquiries. Winkworth have just confirmed that all theirs are 3ph, but there are other avenues yet.
This year's crop
I went to have a look at the orchard near here, where the kind lady who owns it lets me have all of her cider apples. I brought her some of the bumper crop she had last year, now looking golden and glorious in 2ltr Weston's jars! We then took a walk amongst the trees and were both surprised by the paucity of the apple crop this year. Give or take a few trees that I know to be biennial, even the reliable heavy croppers like Brown Snout and Michelin have a sparse and miserable crop. Conversely the plum trees there are overburdened with fruit this year, a situation that brings its own problems of small sized plums and broken branches.
I cannot understand what has happened. Hitherto I thought that, biennialism apart, the main reason for a poor fruit set was a late frost. This certainly did not happen this year. April, you may remember, was our summer! The massive crop of plums, which blossom earlier than apples, also confirms the lack of frost in the spring. So what has gone wrong? Could it be that the pollinating insects were all drowned by the high rainfall in May? I will be interested to hear if any one has a theory for what has happened.
All is not lost as I have now heard from other apple growers that the set is 'patchy' this year. Although things are not looking good in France and in some orchards here, it is still possible to find trees that are bearing wonderfully well. I'm glad to say that this is borne out in my own orchard. I've had to thin the fruit on the KB trees as their branches are bending down so alarmingly already. The reliable Tom Putts and Red Streaks are bearing well as usual and Dabinett looks good, though lighter than last year.
The biennial Stoke Red is going to have an excellent 'on year'. I can see the promise of about 8 gallons of my favourite single variety taking shape! There should be plentiful juice in the fruit. Now we need some sun for gravity and flavour!