all I think about is picking apples
I have followed Tom and Lydia (former NASA solar engineer and costume designer for the National Theatre) for the last few months as they make their award-winning natural cider. Their exceptional drink originates in the oft-abandoned, unsprayed, low intensity, traditional farm orchards of rural Herefordshire. Cider apples gathered from the ground (peak ripeness) are bagged, labelled and stored in readiness for pressing on a belt driven machine towed from France to Wales on the back of a tractor just after the second world war. Tom and Lydia's commitment to this go slow process is a toast to the drink they make and the success and sustainability of the
environment from which it derives.
The project is titled "all I think about is picking apples" (a much repeated phrase) and includes a couple of short films that give a glimpse of Autumn in the orchards of Herefordshire.
Washing and sorting
Tom and Lydia sort, wash and crush a variety of apple called Foxwhelp - one of the oldest vintage cider varieties still available, appearing in records from Herefordshire in the 1660s. The pulp is mixed with black grape skins and left to macerate over the course of a week to produce one of this year's experimental blends.
November arrives along with a noticeable shift in temperature and colour tone. The leaves, vibrant in their decline, give way to gravity and litter the ground alongside the last of the best of the fruit - a late-season variety called Yarlington Mill.
I've started using my father's old Pentax on this project. Manual focus vintage glass seems befitting of Tom and Lydia's old-fashioned method of collecting apples and making cider.
"All I think about is picking apples"
—Lydia, November 2022
pound farm cider press
Pressing the Juice
The first pressing on the Pound Farm tractor-powered cider press - a Wallace and Grommit like contraption towed back from France in 1940 by a chap in the village. The entire process is powered by one rotating PTO shaft and four people working in unison - washing, sorting, crushing and pressing. In days past, the machine would have been towed behind the tractor to the myriad of small farm orchards spread across the county.
adam wells - cider review
Visiting people like Tom and Lydia comes with the uplifting, depressing simultaneous double punch that this is, unquestionably, incontestably, how we are all supposed to live and that the rest of us are doing it all wrong... We’re not supposed to be drinking convoluted coffees in hideous chains, we’re not supposed to do al-desko lunches of bland soup and supermarket sushi with faces glued to monitors and hands full of RSI. We’re not supposed to watch the sixth season of anodyne Netflix piffle, we’re not supposed to drive ten minutes to work or sit dead-eyed on smoke-choked tubes and we’re not supposed to buy plastic bags of feeble herbs that always go off tomorrow. Fast food is obscene, the gym membership is narcissistic absurdity and every link we’ve ever clicked on facebook has been bollocks. Deep in the cankered ventricles of our hearts we know this, and we know that we should be sacking off the office and the coffee run and the cheap t-shirts and the 4G and the gibberish on twitter and finding a little spot of land where we can grow brussels sprouts and plant trees and clean the rivers and eat fruit that tastes of something and beat exhausts into ploughshares and ride electric bikes and drink cider made from apples instead of chemical biliousness and be richer in things that matter and breathe in and breathe out and make a little bit of the planet a little bit better than it was before.