Bear Swamp Orchard & Cidery

Certified Organic Hard Ciders and Apples

Spring orchard work

We have been so hard at work we have not taken the time to share what we’ve been doing, hence the length of this entry. We pruned all the trees in the orchard, some on top of snow that let us reach high in the trees, some on snowshoes, and some on the ground. The trees are continuing on their path to proper shape, as each year we allow some branches to grow out and eventually can cut the overhanging branches that grow at weird angles. We also grafted new varieties onto rootstock that we collected from our trees or those of neighbors and friends, which are currently in our refrigerator but will soon be in the nursery bed to grow into young trees. We ordered a few new apple varieties from Fedco Trees, namely Redfield, Campfield, Reine de Pomme, as well as a few more peach trees, grape vines, and blueberry bushes, and all but the blueberries are now in the ground. We are also moving all the trees we grafted two years ago into the orchard, filling in areas where trees died and starting to plant in new areas as well. It feels great to have the orchard filled in at last, though these new trees will not fruit for some time to come. Remaining orchard work, before we see blossoms, include planting the apple trees that remain in the nursery bed and the blueberry bushes, pruning of a few of our giant standard sized trees, removing all the big tree trimmings from the orchard, and flail mowing the smaller branches to return them to the soil. It’s amazing how those chopped up branches disappear.

On the hard cider side, we have also been busy. We ordered new bottles, and bottled most of the 2012 cider as Sparkling and Hop hard cider, with the still, Farmhouse hard cider, Maple hard cider, and the Ice cider continuing to age for a bit longer. We decided to bottle-condition the sparkling and hop ciders by adding just a few ml of maple syrup when we fill the bottles. This adds some bubbles as the maple syrup ferments. We also worked with our artist friend Jeff Grader to design some labels for the new varieties, and we are now working through the bureaucracy of getting them approved by the organic certifier and the federal government so we can get them printed. Nothing is quick and easy when dealing with alcohol! We are looking forward to making the hard cider available at a few local retailers in the next month or so. Updates on that as soon as we have them.

This spring has been nice and gradual, with no weird heat waves in March like we had last year. We see no vole damage on any trees this year, perhaps due to the long cold period before we had snow this winter. Hopefully pest insects were knocked down by that cold as well; we are looking forward to seeing whether cold, dry winter periods reduce pest insect pressure. Every year is a new adventure, we’ll have to wait to see what this one will bring.
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