Good Life Farm

Revealing the May Cider Club for these last few weeks...

By mid July we'll start prepping for the August Club!

Get in on the May Club for 2 more weeks!

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May Cider Club letter

May 1, 2018

Greetings, greetings!

May is here. It's a time of edgy excitement on this farm.... Where we wonder if we’ll be able to pull off all that we’ve planned for the year. Where we respond to the rapidly increasing light as we roar towards Summer Solstice with the belief that this year will be even better than the last. It's a wild time! We’re sending you ciders that both encapsulate that spring vibration and give you permission to sit back and soak it in.

CLUB COORDINATION HAND-OFF

For clarity, this is Melissa Madden writing to you. I am the Good Life Farm- Kite & String- Cider House owner, farmer, HR director, accountant, janitor, vet, horse driver, mouse chaser and chief composter. I’ve also taken over the Cider Club starting this quarter and I am DELIGHTED!  I miss the years of our Good Life Farm Spring CSA and the community that created. I see the Cider Club as a CSA in similar ways- we’re able to produce ciders just for you, and tell their story more fully. We get to stay in touch and share the ups and downs of our farm and cider life, and hear your thoughts. We get to know more about your lives and what brings you to this FLX region. I have lots of gratitude to Jenny and Sam for getting the Club going over the past year and half, and am so happy to be in a position to take it on as my other responsibilities shift here at home.

VALUING OUR FLX CIDER CULTURE

As you may know from social media, I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Spain as part of a group of cider makers, restaurateurs, journalists and cider culture activists. It was a wacky time to leave the farm and I, for one, am grateful for the slow cool spring that allowed me to enjoy that time away. I’ll be reaching out over the course of the next few months to share highlights of our explorations into Asturian and Basque cider and food culture!  In a nutshell, my greatest take-away was a refocusing on my love and respect for the cider community here in New York and particularly the Finger Lakes. We are in excellent company and will continue to make the Cider House a place where our collaborative spirit can shine.

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF OUR FARM

Now that I’m back, a focus on the farm! We’ve abruptly entered the spring boom period (between breaking dormancy and fruit set) when we watch the weather for scab and fireblight infection events and bite our nails waiting to get through bloom without hard frost. This is the period that tells us how it will be for the rest of the season when we shift towards managing fruit pests and diseases. This time determines the eventual harvest. We also have new trees to plant, and 1,500 trees from last year to cultivate with our horses Leo and Polly. We’ve got 4 miles of asparagus rows to walk and pick daily between May and mid-June, and we’ve got baby poultry to get ramping up for the year. We have ginger and turmeric to plant and tend, and probably a number of things I’m willfully forgetting. I will miss the baby cows this year, but I am excited to renew both my and Garrett’s focus on the orchard for 2018.

IN SUM

In celebration of all of this, we send you this May Cider Club! And if you care to join us in these oh-so-heady times, know you are welcome anytime. Most especially, come see us for Asparaganza 2018 (Saturday, May 26, 3 - 10 pm)! More info… on our website for this family friendly bonanza of fun: fingerlakesciderhouse.com.

Much love and gratitude as the days lengthen!

Melissa on behalf of the farm, cidery and tasting room crews

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May 2018 Club Ciders


King of Hector 2016

Apples Used: 100% wild harvested fruit from Hector, NY, harvested by Brad DeFrees and Will Seymour

Carbonation Method: Traditional Method

ABV: 8.4%

Residual Sugar: 0%

Tasting and Cider Maker Notes: Gripping acidity typical of wild seedlings and crab varieties. Slow fermentation (2 months). Hands off approach with little intervention. High acid cider aged well over the winter with beautiful aromas and unique flavor. We were excited to keep this extremely small lot separate that  season and this cider was filtered and bottled as our last traditional method product of the year.

Inspiration: King Of Hector was produced for the Cider Club only. Brad DeFrees sought out his favorite haunts in Hector in the fall of 2016, when we had an almost complete crop loss on the farm due to late frosts. He found us a great mix of acidic, tannic and aromatic fruit and brought in 20 bushels to make this limited run cider just for you!

Production: 24 cases

Pairing Suggestions: We think this cider drinks like a dry, Spanish champagne style. It is crisp, long lasting, and acidic, and embodies the heat of 2016. Drink it as a starter to open up your guests’ palates and imaginations, with light appetizers like dried fruit or with lightly fried fish or potatoes.


Rose 2017

Apples Used:  Newtown Pippin, Baldwin, Liberty, McIntosh

Carbonation Method: Charmat

ABV: 8.2%

Residual Sugars: 2.9%

TA: 6.9%

Tasting and Cider Maker Notes: A mix of sharp, high acid apples (primarily late season) blended with 18% fresh (unfermented) Riesling juice grown at Hosmer vineyards (Ovid, NY) and 10% Marechal Foch (French variety) red grape wine produced at Swedish Hill Vineyards (Romulus, NY). Put through a secondary fermentation in a closed pressurized tank and bottled at 4 volumes of carbonation pressure.

Inspiration: Blending Marechal Foch red wine from Swedish Hill with our high acid cider blend allows us to play with the wine culture of the Finger Lakes. We add in the unfermented Riesling from Hosmer to kick start the charmat fermentation and crash that halfway through to leave a residual, fruity, grassy sweetness that we think brings this Rose right home to the FLX.  

Production: 402 cases

Pairing Suggestions: This cider is super quenching and brightly fruity. It will go well with alpine style cheese, southeast Asian flavors like ginger, garlic and onion greens and lemongrass.
 


Glacial Till 2017

Apples Used:  Golden Russet, Goldrush, Porters Perfection, Dabinett, Brown Snout, Liberty, Chisel Jersey, Stoke Red, Yarlington Mill, Suncrisp, Redfield, Scarlett Ohara, Akane, Enterprise, Honeycrisp, Winecrisp, Florina

Carbonation Method: Still (no carbonation)

ABV: 9%

Return Sugars: 1%

Tasting and Cider Maker Notes: 100% estate grown fruit. Heavy Golden Russet blend with a substantial tannic backbone. Goldrush, Liberty, and Enterprise give this cider it’s acidity.

Inspiration: This was our first year of bittersweet apples coming into bearing on Good Life Farm. Since 2015 we have made one or another estate (all our own Good Life Farm fruit, 100% organic) cider as the conditions permitted- Hickok in 2015, Goldrush from 2016 and now Glacial Till for the 2017 vintage. It’s an honor to mark the growth of our farm, of our skills as farmers and understanding as cider makers, and time in general with these widely varying Good Life estate ciders.

Production: 121 cases
Pairing Suggestions:  This cider drinks like a full bodied white wine. We recommend serving at 55°F and decanting briefly, then enjoying slowly with acidic and salty flavors like a fresh cut Manchego or grated Pecorino.

Making Cider for the trees

Why cider, why here, what for

Growing an orchard for cider, and hard years

by Melissa Madden, owner Finger Lakes Cider House, Kite & String Cider, Good Life Farm

The Cider House started as a love letter in physical (in exceptionally encompassing form) to the orchards that do and will cover the landscape of New York and the greater Northeast.  From a terroir perspective, the abundance of wild and state-bred apples alone recommends NYS as the hard cider capital of the country.  When thinking in terms of biologically-appropriate planning, trees as part of a northeastern farm come front and center.

Over the past few years of intense Cider House start-up, we've allowed the  visible role of Good Life Farm to fade to the back ground.  Kite & String is now the name of our house cider, and we still strive towards using only our own apples. This goal is years away but in focus as the clearest way for us to express the power of a biodiverse organic farming system. Like those we collaborate with most closely- Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Eve's Cidery and Black Diamond Cider- we value the life that exists within the orchard and recognize its potential for ecological healing.

Without further ado, here is the case for you, as our friends and customers- to try out orchard cider built on the verticality that is Good Life Farm- Kite & String- Finger Lakes Cider House... A love letter to the trying year in agriculture that was 2016 and an invitation to our Cider Club...

 

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ORCHARD CIDER, IN THE GOOD LIFE ORCHARD

The 2016 organic Goldrush crop on our Good Life Farm was the sole harvest for that year, and quite minimal it was. We shared the loss of harvest potential with many Finger Lakes farmers starting right off at Valentine’s Day. In mid-February 2016 we saw temperatures swing from the non-winter we’d been having at 50F to 5F in one night. At that moment, it was adieu to the peach crop in one great Valentine’s Day massacre. As we proceeded through that capricious winter we watched temperatures soar to record heights January thru March only to drop randomly (in February) and significantly in April and May during blossom and pollination. We lost 95% of our crop between those 2 extremes, and then followed a drawn-out drought which started with the extreme dry winter and lasted all the way to October.  The resulting water stress on the trees was lessened by the absolute lack of a fruit crop, but we watched our potential for a ’16 vintage estate cider and fresh fruit sales trickle away into a dry creek of farm desperation.

A bright spot shone through the doom and gloom of scary climate and unhinged nature with a very tiny yield of Goldrush persisting on our adolescent trees. Between the drought and loss of buds at bloom time, we were astounded to greet these nuggets of survival. And the resulting fruit! We recorded the highest brix (sugar content of fruit, indicating ripeness, alluding to growing practices and giving a sense of what final ABV can be after fermentation) we’ve ever seen in fruit coming into Kite & String- either from our own organic fruit or from fruit purchased at more established FLX orchards. This juice was a miracle of complex, largely tropical flavors at the outset- think pineapple explosion- and through primary fermentation only became more astoundingly celebratory.

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IN THE KITE & STRING CELLAR

Garrett and Jimmy made the lovely decision to keep our 50 gallons of 2016 estate harvest (all our own fruit) separate, and to dive into the opportunity presented by this beloved and exquisite pressing in late October 2016. Goldrush 2016 made its way through a primary fermentation designed to maximize fruit quality, to experiment with a new yeast to maximize the single varietal character and to allow time for the choose-your-own-adventure of post-primary fermentation decision making. In March 2017, Goldrush went into secondary fermentation to become a methode champenoise (traditional method or champagne-style) with loose yeast through  secondary fermentation to bring fine, mousse-like bubbles to final cider. And Goldrush ‘16 fermented slowly away to a final and delightful 11% ABV. We disgorged with our fine team of 5 staff in October 2017 after 7 months of second fermentation and lees aging. At the moment, we’ve got a tiny 22 cases (50 gallons) to share and savor. And thus, we release it here to you. Because of the absolute precious-ness of this cider, K&S Goldrush 2016 will only be available to you and our Valentine’s Dinner folks for ordering and tasting.

 

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IN THE BOTTLE, ON YOUR TABLE

This cider, like the Baldwin ’16 you all received in November 2017, is very much a wine-like cider in its alcohol content, fruit expression, production method. Goldrush will pair well with the gentlest of Emmentaler or Alpine-style cheeses (think nutty flavors and subtle acid like a good Swiss). You’ll see how we serve it… first, with little to overshadow it but enough of a pairing to further tantalize your palate. It’s a celebration, the champagne of cider to get a little fancy with! We’re so pleased to have this come out of 2016 and all its challenges and even more pleased to share it with you- our closest friends in cider.

Interested in our 2016 estate cider 'Goldrush'?

Join our Cider Club!

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A Pin In Time: 5 Vintages of Cazenovia

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Staff Training February 28, 2018

Marking time in our own little tree ring…

On the verge of finalizing the 2017 blend, we spent an hour walking through a vertical tasting of Good Life Farm-Kite & String Cide Cazenovia, starting with our first vintage in 2013 and through the blending trials and proposed final blend for 2017. Reminiscing fueled by cider as each vintage reminded us of something unique to our orchard cider community- Eve's Cidery's generosity in 2013 when they let us start production at their place while still building ours; my own learning curve in selling cider alongside vegetables, fruit and meat; the support of Cornell Orchards, Black Diamond Cider, Redbyrd Orchard Cider and Farnum Hill Cider in getting bittersweet cider varieties into our country.

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Cheers to the uniqueness that emerges as we produce or more of our own bittersweets here at Good Life Farm to make Cazenovia- one of my personal favorite ciders for its tannic dryness and  the windows it opens into past support that is the Finger Lakes and northeastern cider communities. This tasting marked the slow, one-chance-annually evolution of us a cider makers in the fine methode champenoise tradition 🥂

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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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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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.

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.