Soft hands, hard work



Last Friday we pilled into the car and set off for the West, counting the roundabouts down the a316 then on to the m3 and finally the a303, whistling past service stations as the city spluttered out and the greenery took over. Theres a rhythm to the journey we're now long accustomed to, Stonehenge is the halfway point but its where things start to slow down (and more often than not grind to a halt). It must be the most disappointing tourist attraction in the world as you've seen it at its best from the road but the stones mark the beginning of the weekend as we pass their mirky bulk.

Three weeks ago we had collected boxes and boxes of apples from trees in two orchards just outside Newton Abbot. These were apples that would otherwise have been left to rot on the ground. Some came from trees that had been tagged but most were unidentified, or unidentifiable, as much effort had been  spent by the farmer to work out what as growing on his land. There were a range from delicious eaters to cider apples so tannic they felt like they were sucking all the fluid from your mouth. We pressed the bruised ones (now fermenting; see previous post) and sorted the rest in boxes scavenged from our local market and left them to rest. When we woke up last Saturday we rolled our sleeves up amid the soft scent of the apples and got to work.

We have a bucket press and a hand turned scratter that requires the apples to be chopped up first. once everything was cleaned we set up a production line; wash/cut/scrat/crush pouring the juice collected in jugs into tubs for fermentation. We got into a nice rhythm as  tubs slowly filled, punctuated by copious tea breaks.

 I have soft hands, I spend my days bashing out e-mails and powerpoint presentations. I now have slightly battered hands bearing the odd blister from the weekend of picking and pressing. Days in front of the computer don't lead to calluses, making real stuff does.

it was Sunday afternoon by the time we finished and with the rumblings on the news about the storm brewing we headed home beneath the darkening skies with a car full of tubs of proto-cider.

Monday afternoon, the weekend forgotten, pushed away by deadlines and the everyday fug the office throws up. I was sitting a meeting when I looked down at my hands and the blister on the inside of my thumb from the scratter and suddenly I was back in the country.

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