Harvey and Heritage

Written by Texas-native and land use scholar Karin Patzke, who you may meet behind the host station in the Cider House.

We wanted to share our respect and empathy for the residents and farmers in Texas, and are grateful to Karin for putting pen to paper and offering suggestions on how to contribute (see end).

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the images of south Texas are striking. For myself, the photos and videos that document the trauma of flooding and evacuation are difficult to reconcile with my own memories of the region. Growing up in central Texas, just north of Houston, I remember the concrete sprawl that characterized the city and its surrounding suburban spaces. Strip malls, five-lane highways, and constant development are what Houston (and most of the other cities in Texas) is known. Knowing that most of those spaces are underwater is difficult to reconcile, and I’ve struggled to understand how I might help those in need. Unfortunately, for those with close ties to the state, this isn’t a new feeling.

            Hurricane Harvey is the latest in a series of natural disasters that have wrecked havoc in south and central Texas in recent memory. From 2010-2015 most of Texas was under sever drought conditions. Cities limited access to water, and rural communities attempted to alleviate the strain on agriculture by developing new reservoir systems. However, the drought was alleviated not by good planning decisions, but by a series of massive rain and flooding events that strained the state’s watersheds for the next two years. Ironically, while devastating to individual property and watershed areas, those flood events helped to restore underground aquifers that had been severely strained during the drought. Harvey continues this cycle of devastation, albeit on a scale few could imagine.

             Many have questioned government officials concerning the decision to let residents remain along the coast during the events of the past week and half. The concern that this kind of human suffering could have been avoided will no doubt remain part of our news cycle in the coming weeks and months. But, it’s not just Houston and other gulf cities that are affected by Harvey. The rural lands that characterize the areas north and south of the city–and the farmers and ranchers who work those lands–have also been devastated. Flooding has caused the most damage as waterways have overflowed onto farms and ranches. While cotton, corn and soy characterize much of the monoculture practices that prevail in the state, hobby farms, pecan groves, and ranching outfits dot these areas as well. The devastation wrecked by Harvey was indiscriminate, just like the droughts and other flooding events that have strained the region in recent memory. 

Grazing lands from Karin's homestate, now under water.

Grazing lands from Karin's homestate, now under water.

            I was recently asked why people stay to farm in these rural communities, especially when one looks at the longer future of climate change in the region which will no doubt continue to put a strain on landowners. This is a question that I’ve struggled with as well. Central Texas is known for many things, and culturally the region is dominated by Czech, German, Italian and Polish immigrants who came to the area in the mid- to late-1800s. Central Texas is lush with rolling hills, prairies and oak savannahs, and my great-grandfather (and others like him) immigrated to the region not just for the new opportunities it offered, but because it looked like something he was already familiar. This sense of familiarity blossomed into an elaborate heritage of migration, landownership, and agricultural entrepreneurship. Families in central Texas pass down more than recipes, furniture and quilts with each new generation. Immigrant families created a cultural in central Texas that not only draws on diverse ethnic identity, but has also created a deep sense of connection that links family to land. Old County dialects, music and folk arts are passed down to successive generations as well. Giving up on the farm (or the ranch) is often interpreted as a kind of betrayal of familial heritage that few are willing to engage.

            While children of farm families may move to cities for school and work, in the cultural landscape that is central Texas, the farm is a shared communal space where everyone can return. The family farm or the family ranch (or what is now turning into the family wildlife management area) is a physical space that counters the suburban life style and creates a tangible link to family heritage. This rural heritage is difficult to abandon, especially when there is no keen sense as to what might replace it.

Pecan groves prior to flooding. Photo: Karin Patzke

Pecan groves prior to flooding. Photo: Karin Patzke

            Imagining what might come after Harvey is difficult for a variety of reasons. There is not a clear plan for how recovery might take place, nor are there clear visions for what kinds of landscapes might replace these affected regions. However, as images of central Texas and the Gulf Coast continue to emerge, I think it’s important to remember that leaving these vulnerable spaces requires a deep inquiry into why people settled there over a century ago. Hurrican Harvey is devastating, but it is a reminder that heritage is more than ephemeral memories of the past. In central Texas, the cultural heritage of migration, ethnic identity and agricultural production has created a landscape that is resilient—perhaps to a fault—and will no doubt recover with collective action and sympathy.

            If you are interested in helping those afflicted by recent events, I encourage you to donate not only to the Red Cross, but also to smaller organizations such as Farm-Aid.  

Red Cross Harvey donations.

Farm-Aid donations.

August 2017 at Eve's Cidery: Lessons in the Traditional Method

Notes on our 8/16/17 Visit

By Ezra Sherman and Autumn Stoscheck, owners of Eve's Cidery

The premise of the staff training was 'Bittersweet apples, Natural bubbles', but the implications were deeper. What does it mean to make cider with true cider varieties instead of left over supermarket apples? What is the point of going through all the effort of using the traditional method to make bubbly cider?

Ezra gave a lesson on the art of disgorging, a processes for removing the yeast after an in-bottle secondary fermentation and Autumn led the group through a tasting of our 2015 Autumn's Gold and two French Ciders from La Perche and and Pays d'Auge, all made from bittersweet apples. 


The lessons were interesting but afterward we sat around in front of the cider barn watching the sun set and enjoying a simple farm meal. As we ate, the French cider began to grow on everyone. We talked about 300 year old apple trees, the story that well-made cider tells, and traditions that link us to farms across continents. 

Read more about Eve's  Cidery on their blog...


Cider House Staff Training: Celebrating 10 years at the Good Life Farm

Good Life Farm and Cider, now Kite & String, home of Finger Lakes Cider House and all your best friends

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

First cycle of Cider House staff training is complete! After starting our monthly tours with Eve's Cider in April and hitting Black Diamond in May and Redbyrd in June, we come home to the Cider House and the farm that is its foundation.

Good Life Farm- a dream of building topsoil now in its tenth year. Home to Garrett and Melissa, who've been holding and implementing a regenerative design here for 10 years. Enter Matt and brother Jimmy, horses+dogs+cows+turkeys+geese and add, with the 2015 opening of the Cider House, 15 more human team members.

Together we balance the long term ecological focus of the Good Life Farm with immediate economic reality. Good Life Farm is just coming into it's own- just barely- and the Cider House collaboration and our own Good Life/ Kite & String Cider production have made this leg of the journey that much sweeter.

So we took this time to top off the longest party weekend if the year with a day-after gathering of our own to honor the Good Life Farm (Kite & String/Good Life Cider) and the entire Cider House team. In particular, we say goodbye to Brad, who brought a new level of integrity and intensity to the Tasting Bar but really, and also, employed his naturalist skills to bring us some forgotten apples from Hector for a new, soon to be released collaborative cider. Brad is off to new adventures, and maybe he'll someday tell us where those trees are.  For now, we thank him for bolstering our young orchard with the fruit of these steady, survivalist elders.

And we'll try to do those hard-won apples (2016- just a real challenge of a growing year) some justice...

And sometimes at the end of all this heavy thinking, we just celebrate! Here's to the trees, here's to the teamwork that gets us there, whether we've been working together for a week or all this decade long.

An evening at Redbyrd Orchard kicks off the Cider Wheel!

Discussing cider with Eric, Round 2

You can too at the Redbyrd Afternoon- June 17, 2 - 5 PM

A recap on our June 7 Staff Training at Redbyrd

This past Wednesday (6/7/2017), our dedicated and excitable staff visited Eric, Deva, Cyrus, Leo and Felix at their home and the younger of the two Redbyrd Orchard sites (Trumansburg). Apropos of our coming public event on June 17 with Eric, we got to taste and chat in the orchard, and came away with our standard feeling of love, respect, awe and inspiration for our partner cideries. June is unique because it is the fever pitch of spring orchard work and sets the stage for the harvest to come. We started our walk with beautiful abundance on 5 yr dwarf Kingston Black and quickly encountering buzz concepts we were forced to dissect... biodynamics. Why, explain. To irrigate for larger and greater future harvests, or to push developing trees to withstand all weather opportunities. Sharing an evening with this family, amidst their unending agricultural journey, expressed so well in dry (and only dry) cider... well, it's just sweet. We recognize and salute the slow flame that burns in Eric and Deva's farmer hearts and keeps Redbyrd making these unique ciders in the smallest batches.

And now the news... updates on the RBO Cider Wheel Project

Reposted from Redbyrd's blog, 6/6/2017

At Redbyrd Orchard we are currently working on a new project, developing a cider wheel to highlight and focus on the unique specific flavors and textures of cider.  We created our first template for the cider wheel and tested it out alongside a cider release event at the Finger Lakes Cider House in March.  This was a super fun event for us as the interest and curiosity of the cider wheel became obviously clear and worth our while.  At that time we tasted 14’ Celeste Sur Lie, 15’ Wild Pippin, and the 16’ Workman Dry, three very different ciders.  We gave the tasters a copy of the first draft of our cider wheel and the flight of ciders to taste and comment.  We got tons of cool feedback, confirming our descriptors for the ciders but more importantly adding more and cultivating and encouraging new descriptors. Now we are working on adding these to the wheel and continuing to hone in on the multitude of flavor expressions in cider.  Below is some boiled down data from this tasting event.   Descriptors are listed in order of the most commonly used for each cider as well as a list of our favorite new descriptors for each cider.

14’ Celeste Sur Lie

Our Tasting Notes: elegant aromas of caraway, clementine, and pine. Full bodied mid-palate revealing lemon curd and raspberry. Soft lingering tannins

From Event:  Bittersweet Apple, Grapefruit, sour, astringent, mouth watering, lime, tart cherry, tangerine,  yeast, birch      

New Descriptors : Toast, biscuit, Raw Bread Dough, Arugula, White Grape

15’ Wild Pippin

Our Tasting Notes : A delicate nose of white pepper, lemongrass, and lime. Herbaceous notes of freshly dug wild carrot root, finishing with mouth watering tannins

From Event :  Earthy, sour, soft tannins, yeast, mushroom, tart cherry, tangerine, velvety

New Descriptors : Rose, Cherry Blossom, Fennel

16’ Workman Dry

Our Tasting Notes : Tropical fruit, orange peel, and birch on the nose. Fruit forward but with a round supple mouthfeel transitioning to a finish of mouthwatering acidity and plentiful tannins. Bright and juicy tart.

From Event :   Lime, Lemongrass, bright, grapefruit, bittersweet apple, orange pith, waxy, cherry, clean, silky, mouth watering, lingering finish,

New Descriptors : Riesling Schorle, Melon, Nectarine

On Saturday June 17th at the Finger Lakes Cider House we will be releasing another cider,  the 2015 Andromeda Crab.  With this complex unique blend of Wickson, Dolgo and Manchurian crab, and classic European bittersweet apples we will again be looking to develop and increase the length of our list of descriptors for cider.  Please join us and be part of this pioneering discovery and the continued evolution of American cider.

Dan Berger International Wine and Cider Competition: Eve's and Good Life win!

Eve's Cidery's 2015 'Darling Creek' takes Best in Class

Good Life's 2015 'Cazenovia' takes silver

View all the results here

We're not surprised! Eve's Cidery has been racking up accolades over the past few years- notably many in Cider Journal which participated in judging the Dan Berger Cider categories.  'Darling Creek' is one of our favorites too, and we're pleased to be serving it this weekend as part of the Eve's Cidery Cider-Maker Afternoon on Saturday, June 10 from 2-5pm.  Drop on in and ask Autumn more about Darling Creek!

Spring Training Part 2: Black Diamond Farm and Cider

Yesterday we hopped over the few miles to Black Diamond Farm and Cider (T'burg) for a sunset among blossoms of every type. Ian and Jackie of Black Diamond Cider took us on a walk through 30 years of building a farm from scratch, and still planting.

Visual and aromatic beauty aside, for those of us with younger orchards a walk through time like this is pure balm, and we love that planning for the Nth generation never ceases in this family.

Black Diamond is our 'estate' cidery here at FLCH, using 100% their own fruit in their ciders. And next Saturday, 5/13 (2-5pm), you can drop in here and have your own conversation with Ian!

Chronicling Spring at high speed

Loving and trying to keep up with life at Good Life Farm

Spring 2017

It happens so fast!  Throughout March we watch spring plod towards us, hoping it won't come too fast and expose us all to late, killing frosts. Simultaneously, we are HUNGRY for it!  The warmth! The absolute burst of life that is late April and May. One day you are sitting, covered in bees and thinking "oh, this is unique".  And then you are covered in everything, and possibly underwater with your task list.

And then it comes, very suddenly.  And absolute all at once. Bloom begins in the peaches, spreads to the crabs and continues in perfect succession through the orchard.  We are blessed at this point in the 2017 orchard season to see fruit in our future, as a deep balm to the huge losses of 2016. And we are challenged to keep up!

This past week we got through orchard set up and started planting our 1500+ dwarf orchard alongside and in between the past 8 years of long-lived, slow growing semi-dwarfs. 

We also chased cows around, and got them onto pasture!  Huzzah- calving season can begin!

Asparagus popped up, we'll be a-pickin' starting Saturday and every day til June!

And always trying to take time to admire and appreciate this frantic, fleeting season.