Winter progress

12 07 2020

Not a lot happens in Southern Tasmania in Winter. The days are incredibly short, encouraging sleeping in in the morning, and snuggling in front of the telly with a nice drink by 5pm while the AGA cooks dinner…. And it rains. Not so much this year, we seem to have gotten more autumn rain than usual, and of course there’s still two more months to go before spring sets in and the wind comes back.

I recently came across the above photo, taken 2½ years ago when we moved ute loads of soil from a heap leftover from the demise of the apple orchard that used to be here….. And I was stunned by the appearance of the soil….

Today, it looks like this….. I shouldn’t be stunned, because I know only too well how much work went into making that soil….  it’s easy to forget things when you’re busy on a grand plan, like making biochar at some scale….

So many amendments were added to this patch of soil to turn it from crappy yellow clay to black fertile useful growing material, it’s mind blowing….. Like ten tonnes of compost, hauled all the way from Hobart, 65km away… Not to mention more bags of horse and sheep manure bought from the side of the road than I care to remember, and our own chicken and goat manure too of course….

As I keep saying, with fossil fuels you can do anything….. Mission accomplished, really. And with the wheels falling off the Matrix this year, not a moment too soon either…!

We had a bumper crop of apples this year. I was even going to try to sell some this year, but the pandemic put paid to that silly idea. Because my neighbour’s farm business has grown so much, he doesn’t have time anymore to help this hobby farmer process apples into juice and/or cider, so I went back to the old press and pulper I was given 4½ years ago, only to rediscover why I hadn’t used it since Matt bought his you beaut equipment. After taking two days to make 40L of cider, I decided it was time I too upgraded to more serious gear.

So I bought myself a new second hand water powered press like Matt’s, only half sized. Pure luck it was. Having googled the world for a Lancman, I accidentally found one on eBay, waiting for me in Melbourne. The asking price was $1800, which is what a brand-new one from the USA would cost, plus the exorbitant freight cost of course. I offered the seller a cheeky $1000, and he countered with $1500. Which I ignored. I was in no hurry, and I wasn’t going to pay that…. A month later, eBay reminded me this counter offer was expiring, so I made a second $1000 offer, and it was promptly accepted….. I expect the pandemic was probably causing this poor bloke some cashflow problems, but seriously, I paid what it was worth…

The press duly arrived, and there were still loads of Pink Ladies on the trees, for the first time ever since arriving on the Fanny Farm. I procrastinated sufficiently for nearly all the apples to fall off on the day I decided to go for it…! I couldn’t believe my eyes…

Virtually none of the fruit on the ground were usable, so I ended up pushing my wheelbarrow 100m downhill to just fill it, and of course push it back up full of apples… I’d be guessing I had 60kg of fruit to juice, but what an effort…

Those apples were covered in Black spot, but unlike previous years, it didn’t cause them to rot on the tree. I’d love to know why….

My new Press…

Before next year’s season, I will also replace the home made scratter with, I think, an insinkerator I saw used for this purpose on YouTube…

Glorious apple juice…

Was it worth the effort? probably not, but a new faster and more efficient pulping system will undoubtedly end the chore aspect of what I feel is an essential part of the Fanny Farm’s annual activities. The press was wonderful, processing three times as much material in one hit as the old one, and faster to boot… By next season, I will hopefully have all this under control…

This is what $30 a litre apple juice looks like…



11 responses

12 07 2020

still keeping an eye on your antics…..loving your posts….trixie

13 07 2020

Cheers Trixie…

12 07 2020
Hugh Spencer

I’m jealous. Up here – things like apples wouldn’t survive (and we don’t have a substitute). Hope you can make scrumpy – something we used to enjoy in Melbourne (Monash U – Notting Hill pub in the late 60’s) (Abney’s orchard – now long gone under the pressure of suburbia). Abney’s wonderful products ruined my taste for current ciders! We are experiencing the effects of AGW here – normally June and July are our sunniest months – now they are almost continuous cloud. Rough on the solar! I wonder how many weeks it would take our spec Flying fox colony to demolish your wheelbarrow of Pink Lady apples (their favourite).

12 07 2020

Hi Hugh, I actually only make scrumpy as it turns out, after googling how to make some! And you’re dead right about commercial cider….

So while you’re fighting overcast weather, we’re enjoying bright sunshine since lunch time, and our batteries are full….

12 07 2020
Hugh Spencer


12 07 2020

Nice to see the progress. Getting the timing right with picking fruit is a huge pain, about as bad as picking the right day to harvest grain before a rain ruins it all. We are building up stocks of persimmon here in the subtropics with a hundred trees coming on, which also have high enough sugar to ferment. They grow like weeds and fruit heavily about 5 years from seed. I am also planting hundreds of jaboticabas which also are sweet enough to ferment well, though they take a bit longer to mature. I am also finding muscadine grapes produce really well, so that should be three different sugary fruit for turning into wine and vinegar that can each be harvested at a different time of year so all the labor demands don’t pile up at the same time.

13 07 2020

Yep-the old line. What’s the difference between a good and a bad farmer? About a week.

12 07 2020
Steven B Kurtz

Hi Mike (& Hugh)

During the 90s (age 45-55) we did organic gardening (not commercial, but extensive). I bought a manual wooden press which was like a barrel with a winder mechanism. We made maybe 15 gallons of apple cider, most frozen in our large chest freezer. The grape production wasn’t huge, and made around 5 gallons of that, put in quart jars. I miss those days, but at 75 am not about o start up again! Enjoy!

13 07 2020

I constantly wonder what I’ll be doing when I’m 75, that’s only seven years away….

12 07 2020

Hi, i have been following your progress, with great interest, as i am also building a standalone property, at the Macedon Ranges, in Victoria. A couple of months back, i was looking at the presses at a store in Melbourne and would have liked to have seen your preferred press there. In the article, you refer to it as a ‘Lancome” fruit press.
I looked everywhere for this brand. Could you confirm the spelling, or send us to a URL, if they have a website?
Thanks in advance

13 07 2020

Hi, sorry, I got the spelling wrong, it’s lancman…

There must be agents in Australia, I don’t believe that my neighbour imported his…

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