My name is Al, I’m the owner of the wonderful and weird cider house called “Far From The Tree”. I just moved into an off-the-grid yurt on our new orchard up in Maine with my wife and my 4-month-old son. Up here I’ll be replanting and grafting over the entire orchard to all new varieties of apples with the intent of growing fruit specifically for our cider. The purpose of my contribution to this blog is to share with you our journey, however it may go, and provide myself with a healthy cathartic output as we deal with the ups and downs of this unique challenge.
The reason we're doing this: We’ve got a unique opportunity right now as New England cider makers. We’re already making a lot of great cider from what’s grown here but I believe we are limited by the variety of apples that are available. Like a wine maker being forced to make the best wine they can with Thompson Seedless and Concord we’re restricted right now by the apples that are currently popular on supermarket shelves.
Sales in supermarkets are driven by how an apple looks on the shelf under bright lights and how it tastes as fresh fruit - not as hard cider. That’s what’s being grown so that’s what’s available, orchards don’t exactly rip up and plant a new tree just because you tell them you think it might make a better hard cider. I don’t blame them. Trees aren’t like hops or barley, they take a long time to grow and planting a new type of tree is a big investment both of your time and money. But (you knew there'd be a but, didn't you), I believe our cider can be better and all we have to do is grow cider fruit instead of supermarket fruit - the rest will follow. If we take the risk of ignoring the supermarkets and concentrate only on flavor and cider instead of what looks pretty on the shelves I believe we’ll make a better cider. I know, I know this sounds like I’m putting down the cider being made in New England currently, including our own cider, but I’m not! I love our cider with every ounce of my being and it makes me incredibly happy every time I take a sip - it's just that I know it can be even better. Striving for better is why we do what we do and it makes us happy.
So, there’s the philosophy, I’m going to take a bit of a risk to grow a bunch of cider fruit because I think it will be worth it. Now, how do we pull it off in the real world while on a budget and also trying to run a kick ass cider house? It’s about being creative and keeping things malleable. “Creative and malleable” right now means living in a yurt and prioritizing the orchard. The downside is that my wife and I are now in a constant state of potential modern convenience withdrawal horror. The move, while inflating our “we can rough it” ego is starting to feel a bit like voluntary sanity suicide. Yesterday we drove around the area for several hours and noticed something really interesting about the hundred or so houses we passed, none of them were yurts. We don’t know a single person that lives or has lived in a yurt. In fact we have not been able to find a single example of someone in New England living in a yurt off-grid successfully.
Our grasp of off-grid living is a piecemeal of Walking Dead episodes and the knowledge that, according to Bear Grylls, it’s ok to drink your own pee. I don’t think it really is by the way, but I digress.
It’s happening and we are doing it.
The good news, is that my wife and I are generally happiest when we’re being challenged and this move, I think, may be conducive to a fairly happy challenging existence long-term. That is our current working theory anyway on the matter. Oh yeah, and very convenient access to some really good cider I hope.
For those worried you’ll never see my beautiful mug ever again no need to fret. During the middle of the week I will continue to be in Salem in a camper helping out at Far From The Tree. This is going to come with its own unique set of challenges but it sure is going to be interesting.
During the rest of the week, Erik, the first employee I ever hired will now be running the show. His cider making abilities have been the driving force in what we do for some time now, and I am extremely happy to have him in charge while I'm in Maine. Next time you see him, give him a pat on the back and tell him he’s kicking ass.
Going forward this blog will be released roughly once a week. Next week’s blog: “Screaming coyotes, our nightly lullaby”