Harvest Report 2017: Redbyrd Orchard Cider

Written by Eric Shatt

Redbyrd Orchard Cider owner, cider-maker and orchardist 

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The last two tanks of our 2017 cider are finishing up their fermentation as we speak.  What an awesome year it was for us at Redbyrd!!!!! 

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We harvested a record crop from our orchards and 80% of our fruit this year came from our trees and small local orchards in Schuyler and Tompkins county managed by us and people we love!!!!…..Treegate Farm, Newell Farm, Hammerstone Orchard, Sweet Land Farm.  We love this fruit!!, truly a difference from a cider perspective in organic management and variety selection, to us this makes all the difference in the world with higher levels of concentration, complexity and soul in the fruit, and cider. 

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The ciders from 17’ are showing great!!! Most of our blends this year contained higher quantities of bittersweet and aromatic heirloom varieties which are tasting really good in their early stages with plenty of body, vibrant fruit, and fairly angular, austere rich strong tannins, especially in the Kingston black, Dabinett, Harry Master Jersey realm of fruit.   The flavor and attributes of these tannic varieties were not diluted from excessive rain and heavy crop this season as anticipated.   

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In fact in some ways we will need to age and soften/integrate cider heavy in these varieties before they can be released.  The flip side is that these ciders should have strong aging potential and this is a world we are diving into more and more each year as we try to hold back ciders for future rereleases.   Rounding out our season…Our final pressing of the year which was mostly Goldrush was spectacular with high brix, and that rich golden viscous juice that we are becoming more familiar with and loving more and more each season. 

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These tanks highlighting their bright fruit will likely become a very important blending component in most of our ciders.  It’s great to have our tanks full again, and to have the scarily lean harvest of last year behind us, we made it through!!!  Now one of the big questions right now is…… “Is this another two-year harvest?”, or will we have fruit again next year? Will we have to hold back our stash to last for two seasons, or can we freely move this vintage out the door!!  We are so very looking forward to bottling and sharing this harvest with you!!!….stay tuned!!

A special offer for lovers of Finger Lakes Cider from Eve's Cidery

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Use this coupon: FLXCIDER at check out in Eve's Online Store 

..get FREE shipping to 38 states.

The coupon lasts until 12/26 and can be used an unlimited number of times.

Whether you just want the convenience of stocking up from the comfort of your home or you want to share amazing orchard based cider with your friends and family across the country, Eve's Cidery is offering a special FREE shipping coupon to Finger Lakes Cider House fans for the holidays.

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For those who really enjoy the nuances or cider, we've created these limited quantity, holiday packs:

The Vintage Pack

Taste through 3 years of this bone-dry, bubbly, single-variety cider. Comes with a guide detailing each vintage.
 

The Eve's Sampler


Get a little bit of everything, from rich tannic bittersweet cider to ice cider for dessert and everything in between including the otherwise SOLD OUT 2014 Autumn's Gold and 2015 Darling Creek.


The Magnum 4-Pack

Do you love bittersweet cider? Do you want to impress your friends with beautiful large format bottles? Or is one bottle of delicious cider just not enough?

We are also pretty excited about the release of our 2016 vintage on 12/5. 2016 was a year plagued by frost and drought and our production was limited, with less than 100 cases of each cider. Read the stories of these beautiful ciders in our store now:
2016 Albee Hill
2016 Northern Spy
2016 Darling Creek

2016 Essence

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We can't wait to start packing your box.

Use the coupon FLXCIDER in the top left at check out in our online store. 



Happy holidays from hills and valleys of Van Etten.
-Autumn, Ezra, Celia the kids and the dogs

How to choose your holiday cider

For A Crowd and For A Feast: Cider Buying Guidelines

Featuring the menu stylings of Lisa Jonckheere, co-owner (and beverage director, to say the least) of Trumansburg's own Hazelnut Kitchen.

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First and foremost - every GREAT dinner starts with bubbles. 

So grab your favorite Brut or Celeste Sur Lie and drink to friends, family and memories.  Cheers!

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All day snacking / first course

Look for a cider that is dry, bright, minerally, light tannins, tart and sassy. 

Some Cider House ciders to try: Baldwin, Pippin, Funkhouse, Darling Creek, Slatestone

Main

Try a cider that’s dry or with a touch a of sweetness.  It’s the holidays, you came for the food.  Don’t pick a cider that’s going to over-power the flavors but find one that will cut through the rich buttery sides. 

Northern Spy, Geneva Russset, Workman Dry, Autumn's Gold, Hickster or well rounded, perfect for any day ciders. 

 

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Dessert

Dessert is supposed to be sweet, so pair your cider the same way.  Nobody wants to skip dessert but if you are too full you want a cider that can stand up on its own.  This way your guests feel like they are having dessert in a glass. 

Royal, Pommeau, Ice Cider, Essence

Unless of course you are having cheese – then treat it as a first course pairing. 

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Come taste at the Cider House! 

We are running a Thanksgiving tasting special through Nov 22- buy 3 ciders and get 10% off!

See what's happening this week!

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Harvest Report 2017: Kite & String Cider - Good Life Farm

This week's report comes straight from the home farm of Finger Lakes Cider House- Good Life Farm- and the house cidery located right underneath the tasting room- Kite & String Cider!

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Looking at our list of to-do items for the next 3 weeks, I get that thrill that comes with knowing a corner will be turned and things will wrap up. I also know that these 3 weeks (and the past 6, or maybe this whole past year, or maybe all 10 years we’ve been farming and moving towards cider) are those last gasp opportunities to make it all happen before a long FLX winter sets in.

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Our lists range from “finish harvesting ginger and ALL turmeric, then move tunnels” to “sell the rest of the turkeys, process them (11/19) and distribute them (Nov 19-21) to “press most of our fruit, start primary fermentations on 70% of the incoming juice”… etc.  Words on a list don’t do justice to the hustle of this time.  It’s invigorating and overwhelming and for the past 10 years I’ve tended to completely forget and lose myself in it. 

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This year, we’re seeking balance and have a stronger team than ever before. Between the harvest efforts of the Good Life Farm crew, the production efforts in the Kite & String cider cellar, and the sales and hospitality feats upstairs in the Finger Lakes Cider House, I feel surrounded by folks who want to see this thing go! Let’s reclaim food and drink for small farms! 

Want to see for yourself?  You can still U-Pick Enterprise and Goldrush apples here, and you can taste our cider alongside Eve’s, Black Diamond and Redbyrd every single day of the week in the tasting room. It’s good to have something constant!

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Jimmy and Garrett (Miller brothers and Kite & String cider-makers) report that- despite erratic weather and uneven ripening- the Good Life organic apple crop is hitting a milestone! After 10 years of growing, tweaking, replanting, still planting and learning how to manage our organic orchard for cider and fresh eating sales, we’ve brought in our first significant crop of bittersweet and bittersharp apples!  Our estate blends (in 2015 ‘Hickok’ and in 2016 20 cases of to-be-released ‘Goldrush’) can now feature a heavier balance with the tannins provided by our ramshackle mix of ‘Porter’s Perfection’, ‘Chisel Jersey’, ‘Dabinett’, ‘Stoke Red’… balanced with fruit from our older, culinary trees including ‘Golden Russet’, ‘Akane’, ‘Liberty’, ‘Florina’ and even some ‘Redfield’ and ‘Bramely’s Seedling’.  Huzzah, a toast (in a year or so)!

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Why does this feel significant?  Because 10 years ago, when we were so much younger, we started planting an orchard. We’ve got big hopes for this farm and its next 10 to 50 years. We did a lot of experimenting and mistake-making in the previous decade as farmers and in the past 5 years as cider makers. The 2017 harvest and vintage is no joke in terms of challenging each and every one of the lessons learned along the way- heat and moisture making for excellent disease conditions in the orchard during ripening (especially peaches), and then late heat forcing fruit drop a month early and underripe.  Fermentations going quickly with 70F days in October, and us with no glycol jackets to control it (we prefer to ferment at 50F).  What’s to predict?

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The 2017 harvest marks only the 4th in our lineage of harvesting significant amounts of fruit from our young trees.  The 2017 vintage marks only our 5 year trying on our cider-making hats.  Each year, we get to try again based on our memory, our notes and our intuition about what is right for the farm and the fermentations. And we’re still midstream in harvest and some of our initial primary fermentations- mostly with ‘Northern Spy’ from off farm.  What comes next is the ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure: keep the higher acid ciders sharp or blend? Go through a malolactic fermentation? How much time on lees (do we have? Can we afford?) What do our estate ciders turn out like and do they therefore stay estate or do we find we prefer to blend for a different balance?

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We’ll be back in a month to answer some of the short-term pending questions. We’re really enjoying the journey, and invite you along!

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Harvest Report 2017: Eve's Cidery

In thinking about the pending 2017 vintage, we asked each participating FLCH cidery to provide us with their outlook to date.  Par for the course, Eve's Cidery served up a thorough analysis of the season, and here goes!

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Written by Autumn Stoscheck, Eve's Cidery

Published on Eve's Cidery Blog, Oct 24, 2017

I said the word 'unseasonable' so many time during the 2017 growing season, that the word lost it's meaning. As I write this at the end of October, clouds in balmy grey skies move comfortably on 78 degree breeze, and I wonder: was there ever any such thing as a season?

In March we had had the now common yet still feared early spring warm up. The trees raced ahead with bud phenology and we bit our nails and gnashed our teeth, worrying about a repeat of the 2016 freeze out. This time though, things cooled right down in early April, and despite the endless rain and cold, blossoms were pollinated and fruit set.

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The notion of a humid Northeast climate and all the fungal challenges that come with it was fully manifest this year: by midsummer, many wild trees, and abandoned or mismanaged orchards had lost their leaves due to scab (venturia inaequalis) or rust (gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) or both. But this was only a minor part of the story of our orchards in 2017, thanks in part to an amazing holistic management program (more about this later) we been working on for a number of years now.

The bigger story of 2017, I believe, was 2016. Four months with out rain during the growing season last year left the trees stressed going into a dry and mild winter. Stresses not necessarily apparent to the naked eye lingered into 2017. Constant rain, 'unseasonable' cold, and continual cloud cover meant that the trees just didn't get as much photosynthesis done as 'normal'. Combine this with depleted reserves and a heavy crop set and it's no wonder how they reacted to an 'unseasonable' fall...

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Just when September rolled around the corner and the harvest was about to start, the unseasonable fall-like summer ended and the summer-like fall began. In early September it dried right up and got hot. The first week of 85 degree plus weather was welcome. We went swimming (unlike the rest of summer!). The next week we started to get annoyed. By the third week of this unseasonably warm, dry weather, we started to get worried. The harvest season was suddenly compressed from a 6 week season to a 3 week one as all the apples started falling off the trees at once. Some of it was early ripening, but not all. ripeness was all over the place. Which apples fell and dropped seemed to have no rhyme or reason. Starches were high in some fruit. Acids started dropping. Brix stayed surprisingly low.

As all this fruit was dropping we scrambled to keep up. The hot temperatures meant the apples couldn't sit around. No picking a little of this and a little of that. No thinking about blends. No sweating this year. Just pick and press. Fill bins and empty bins. All hands on deck.

In the nick of time, our friend Rich Gurney swooped in to help with harvest and pressing and I honestly don't think we could have done it with out him. And as I write today, 80% of the crop is now in tanks bubbling away.

What's the upshot of the 2017 vintage for cider? Two years of unseasonable weather induced stress and a heavy crop left the trees vulnerable to a bizarre heat wave in the fall causing early drop and unusual juice chemistry. Some folks are all ready declaring 2017 to be a vintage "not worth writing home about" but to my mind it's too early to say. There are mysteries and intricacies in nature that we clearly do not fully understand. Cider is more than it's main chemical components. Every year has a story to tell and every vintage of cider has an opportunity to tell that story. So for now we are focused on the mundane aspects of cidermaking...washing tanks, washing the press, pressing apples, picking apples, sorting apples, washing tanks, watching the ferments. Watching and waiting...

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If I had to make a prediction about the story our 2017 ciders will tell, a story you'll get to taste in a year or two, I'm going to say it's a story about resiliency. It's about ecosystems and the micro-biome as radical alternatives to industrial-chemical agriculture in the face of climate chaos. When 'normal' starts to fail, so do the normal ways of doing things. There has never been a better time to look to nature for a new way of farming.

And there has never been a better time to be a cider drinker, dear reader. While the market is flooded with faceless, nameless ciders made from commodity industrially farmed apples, they are easy to ignore. Seek out the ciders that tell a story of the land. Seek out ciders that tell a story of the season. That's the power of a really good cider.

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Cider Week FLX perspectives, and moving right along

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Small Farmer's Heyday?

Reporting from the 5th Annual Cider Week FLX

Perspectives from Kite & String/Good Life FarmBlack Diamond Farm and CiderEve's Cidery and Redbyrd Orchard Cider


It starts with a bang- the annual Downtown Ithaca Apple Harvest Fest- and continues through a full week and 2 solid weekends of cider-centric events full of tastings, education, conviviality. It also happens smack in the middle of harvest and pressing season, and most of us are small cideries still playing both sides of the table: working the orchard and press by day, and dashing off to events in the afternoon and evenings.  This is year 5 for the producer-initiated and -run Cider Week FLX, associated now with the New York Cider Association and aligned with Cider Week NYC (approaching 10/20-29/2017).

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Given this perfect storm in harvest and cider drinking time, how does it work? Does Cider Week do the job to create 'cider ephiphanies' all over the region? Are we inspiring new cider devotees to our FLX orchard cider ways? And if so, does this mean enhanced sustainability for our family farms, our IPM and organic orchards and our desire to participate as living wage employers, aware and active enviromnental stewards, socially just businesses and members of healthy families?

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Is it even possible to answer these questions mere days after Cider Week ends and as we return to the trees and press to catch up?  Consider this a sally into addressing these larger issues as they affect our vision and day-to-day businesses, and join us in the conversation! For now, some thoughts from the collaborating minds that make up the Finger Lakes Cider House: Kite & String (house cidery), Black Diamond, Eve's Cidery and Redbyrd Orchard Cider.


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Black Diamond Farm and Cider's Ian Merwin weighs in...

Cider week was the busiest ever for us this year.  Some days we had simultaneous events in different places. It was great to have so much interest in ciders, but exhausting to keep up with it in the midst of harvest and pressing!  Our farm/cidery tours on Saturday were definitely the high point for Black Diamond—about 80 people arrived for two tour groups, and most of them bought cider and/or Crosswinds Farm cheese while they were here.  These farm tours connect us with customers from several states who know our apples and ciders, and are enthusiastic about seeing the home orchards and cidery where it all begins! With each successive FLX cider week, we can see the evolution of regional cider culture.  People are increasingly appreciative of orchard-based ciders made from traditional cider varieties, expressing our unique growing conditions in upstate NY.  This year we also noted that more people were asking for “dry” ciders, though they were sometimes unsure of what that really meant!  


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Thoughts from Eve's Cidery's Autumn Stoscheck

Cider Week 2017 brought folks from all over the country (and other countries too!) to our region to experience cider culture of the Finger Lakes. It was fun to see the passion folks have for drinking good cider and their excitement to get behind the scenes in the growing and making of it. 

We led a cider apple and cider tasting workshop in the orchard at Indian Creek, and folks got really excited about tasting the differences in apples of the same variety grown on different farms.

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We led a tour of our Albee Hill orchard where participants learned about the abstract notion of terroir in ciders, wild bees and the new resiliency paradigm in farming.

We also held a private dinner for special guests and tasted through our library of perries, both ours and some from across the ocean.

My favorite part of cider week this year was hearing from folks how they had just been at another cider week event. It was great to see people come to the area for days and attend the diversity of great happenings. I was also more than impressed to see the amazing food pairing local chefs are coming up with for cider because that's a key piece in the development of an authentic cider culture...local food made for cider.


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Enthusiasm from Redbyrd Orchard's Eric Shatt

I feel like we had a bigger audience than ever and the understanding and interest in what we are doing is getting to people. We are being watched,  and by some pretty impressive wine/food focused folks, this is great!!!!.  After this year’s cider week I feel the momentum is moving in our direction.  Cider in the Finger Lakes is special!!!


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Kite & String thoughts from Melissa Madden

The end of such a big push leaves me wanting to tie it all up into an mentally neat package.  The effort that goes into these 9 days of cider madness challenges us- as the owners and eternal hosts at Finger Lakes Cider House- to be convivial, hospitable and ever prepared for visitation.  The increased attention to cider in the region asks us to step off-farm and out of the cidery and tasting room to share Kite & String at our accounts. I attempted to make sense of this schedule with one single post on our calendar, as well as individual event posts each day.

Meanwhile, the full bounty of the farm comes to fruition and demands love and attention just as the cidery ramps into overtime. We think of Cider Week as an opportunity to share this overwhelming abundance and engender love for the FLX landscape and farms as they are now.  Meanwhile, we'd like to pay attention to the past and step away from the production and retail mentality- remembering that this long cider celebration falls right on Indigenous People's Day, with its obvious and complicated reflections on our generation of land owners and farmers.  We also seek to pay homage to 400 years of growing trees and naturalizing apples and fermenting them into a beverage that has grown from scrumpy to craft and vies with fine (grape-based) champagne for a spot on the celebratory table.

How to wrap one's head around the opportunities for discussion here? And simultaneously do thousands of tastings both here and around the region? More and more, we're thinking of Cider Week as a magnifying glass on our year-round programming, on our messaging, on our social commitments. We hope each year to participate to the best of our ability in events that are both light and fun, some that are deeply nerdy and some that really delve into the true land-based issues we believe lie at the heart of orchard cider. 

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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.