Oh! But I also forgot to tell you about the Cider Festival we went to last weekend! I mean, I may be filled constantly with career-based anxiety but in other ways I am TRULY LIVING THE DREAM, it’s worth keeping in mind!
As you know, we have this enormous apple tree. We have decided that the best way to deal with our apples is to make cider. It’s the only way to process massive amounts of apples in a timely fashion, plus I am interested in fermentation. We also have to get a chest freezer, but that is another issue.
So we have been doing some research. We got Annie Proulx’s book about cider-making, which is overwhelmingly thorough. We figured out where we can buy a rad old-style home cider-press that doesn’t use electricity or anything. We are getting set. Then Cider Days happened in our town! This is the kind of shit you get when you move to rural New England! Along with concerned letters to the editor about what happens to all the pumpkins after the pumpkin-carving contest (they are composted).
It could not have been more delightful. I truly felt reborn, like for one day I had been cleansed of my worries, and was just taking such genuine and deep pleasure out of just existing on the earth as a living creature. Then of course I had to go to a MEETING that night (i.e. Sunday, did you ever hear of such a thing), but still.
The festival we went to was in a small town 30 minutes away from ours. By “town,” I mean that it was a series of farms surrounding a small white church that had been built in 1794. We parked in a small field, walked past a single port-a-potty, down a hill, and emerged onto a flat little lawn next to a big-ass barn. There was a broad vista overlooking an apple orchard and a small herd of llamas.
There were maybe 40 people milling around, and five booths. This is what a “festival” in rural New England consists of. It was awesome. The booths were selling cider, cider syrup, cider vinegar, squash soup made with cider, cider donuts, apple butter, apples by the bushel or peck, wool socks made with wool from the llamas, and beautiful hand-carved wooden bowls. There were also hot dogs. And there were real dogs, just wandering around, and people were giving them bits of the hot dogs. Everyone was getting something nice, was the point, even the llamas, who were eating apples.
We walked down to the orchard, where we met a lady holding a crock of crushed apples. She told us the orchard belonged to her 80 year old aunt, who had bought it in the 60s. The orchard is 170 years old. We walked amongst the trees and laid our hands on them, feeling their vibes. The trees were beautiful, gnarled, ancient, and fragrant. Some still had stubborn winter apples clinging to their higher branches; little spots of red in the yellow and orange foliage. “There are ticks,” the lady warned us apologetically.
Back at the festival, we stood around in a small cluster, our backs to a pleasant fire someone had started, around which a bunch of people were desultorily chatting. Then, an angel appeared. Her name was April and she was wonderful. She was perhaps my age (not too young; not too old; JUST RIGHT). She runs a women’s cider-making collective where they all go to each other’s houses and taste each other’s cider when it’s time to rack the cider. Talk about living the dream! April put on a cider-making demonstration that was extremely empowering. Her basic instruction was “don’t worry about it.” She’d say things like “now you can dump some sugar in….or you don’t have to!” or she’d say “I just use a regular old hose but you can buy a fancy one if you want.” People aggressively interrupted her to ask questions that sounded angry, which at first startled me but then I remembered that this is New England and that culturally they don’t consider that kind of behavior rude. “HOW DO YA KEEP FLIES OUTTA THERE???” someone would yell, and April would say “That’s a REALLY good question,” and then answer it clearly. One person interrupted her to angrily say “Well I bet THOMAS JEFFERSON didn’t use that chemical crap to sterilize HIS cider barrels” and April very graciously said “you’re right, I bet he just used boiling water. But I also bet he got sick a lot.” After awhile I started asking questions too–when in Rome, right?–and she answered them all clearly and efficiently.
After the demonstration, she just started opening up bottles of cider her friends had made, and pouring everyone tastes of it. Then other people who had brought their own homemade cider started bringing out jugs and mason jars and old kombucha bottles full of it, and walking around in the crowd pouring people slugs. We’d all been given free commemorative glasses for some reason. At no point were IDs checked, wristbands given, or any other official or legal action taken of any kind. We were just a bunch of grown-ass strangers, standing around a campfire in some old lady’s orchard, drinking apple jack some crazy man wearing a leather jacket had just pulled out of the trunk of his car. Everyone stood around discussing methods, spices, temperature, gravity, and apple varieties. I was concerned because I’d gathered you can’t make good cider out of Macintoshes, which we are pretty sure is what our tree is. However, April said she’s had “amazing” cider made out of Macs, so we are going for it.
After the demonstration, we walked up to her to say thank you. We had as yet not spoken to her or introduced ourselves or anything, but when we walked up her eyes got wide, and she pointed at us, and she said, “YOU’RE gonna make CIDER…….I CAN FEEL IT.” She said we can email her anytime and she will answer all our questions.
I really think she was the greatest person in the world.
Driving home, full of squash soup and cider donuts and cider, and smelling like a campfire in the best possible way, we saw our rosy future. “I’m gonna go to the beer store while you’re gone, and get a cider making kit,” my old man declared. When I get back, we’re going to go buy 5 gallons of golden russet cider from these local dudes, and spend the winter trying to make our first batch, so we’ll be ready next fall when our own tree starts producing again.
It was so great. It made me feel alive and well. People are beautiful and so much of what they do with their time on this earth is beautiful and interesting.
The bartender at this hotel bar keeps asking me if I’m SURE I don’t want some Bailey’s in my coffee. It is noon.