That was one hell of a hard frost we had last night. A twinklingly clear night sky, and temperatures down to -6°C conspired to make things as crispy as a Findus Pancake underfoot. The orchard trees look sugar-frosted, and the poor Rockingham Forest Cider Hens are just about as cold and miserable as it's possible for hens to be (given the unlimited supplies of warm porridge and raisins on tap). Have I mentioned it's cold?
Cold it may be, but there's still plenty to look forward to at this time of the cidermaking year. Yes, the basic graft of actually making cider and perry is now over, squeezed into a few short weeks of harvest around October, but no sooner has the Christmas break been put to bed than the New Year brings with it a host of new jobs and events. In many ways this is the most interesting time of the year for us.
A trip to the cider heartland of Herefordshire is imminent, the voracious appetite of the Red Lion regulars demand that we supply more cider. A trip to Ross-on-Wye to visit our friends at Broome Farm will be a real treat, and I can add value to the journey by bringing back a couple of new fermenters. In our haste to press everything we could pick, we managed to fill every available tub, leaving us with nothing to rack the young ciders and perrys into later this month. Talking of which, it will soon be time 'swirl, nose and sip' the young ciders and perrys for the first time since we pressed them. It really doesn't get much more exciting than that I can assure you!
Pruning time in the orchard is not far away, and with it comes another round of Grafting. We're also looking forward to the 2nd National Scion Wood Exchange Day (6th Feb) at Buckingham Nurseries. This unique event, organised by the Midshires Orchard Group, will hopefully provide us with some rare and interesting apple varieties to graft onto the rootstock we have on order.
Christmas may be over for another year, but January brings its own round of festivities. Twelfth Night is the traditional date for Wassailing the orchards, a highly sociable folk custom designed to celebrate the turn of the agricultural year. Wassails can occur at any time from the first weekend of the month through until the 'old' Twelfth Night of the 17th. There is a very successful Wassail at Broome Farm on the 16th, and slightly closer to home there will be a Family Wassail at Stowe Landscape Gardens in Bucks, again organised by the Midshires Orchard Group. We'll have a mini Wassail in our own orchard, a few glasses of cider and warming fire should do the trick.
So plenty of activities to keep us busy, and warm the heart if not the body over the next month or two. Oh, almost forgot, there's a tax return to do before the end of the month. Now there's a thought to chill the bones.