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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