As we move through life its very easy to focus on what we haven’t done rather than what we have achieved. As an A-type personality with a list obsession, I’m always guilty of seeing the list half un-ticked.
When we first purchased our farm back in 2014, I began a notebook. It includes all my to-do lists, memorandums, contacts and research – basically a record of our enterprise here. I like to think some future historian is going to go nuts over this notebook and think they’ve found the motherlode of authentic source material. Every year on January 1st I also write a summary of what’s gone on at the farm that year. Our successes, our failures, our learning points and our fun times are all jotted down for future reflection.
As I was writing this year’s entry, I had a read back to January 1st 2016. On a daily basis it can feel like we are wading through a swamp of red tape, adverse weather and un-foreseen circumstances. It was actually reassuring if not downright amazing to see how far we’d come.
This time last year we had eight lonely totes of cider, no bottles, no idea how to get bottles, no bottling machine even. We were wrestling with a second hand chiller that was getting ever more complex in the modifications required to get it to work and contemplating with horror the price of a brand new unit. Our tasting room was still a bare bones space – no bar, no shelves, no tables and chairs. It was about this time I spent a weekend ankle deep in mud and pond water, cutting out old barn wood for the furnishings with a chainsaw. Speaking of ankle deep mud, this was the time of year that every time it rained we were left with some kind of Noahs-ark scale disaster to deal with. Due to changes to the drainage caused when we built the cidery, the pond on our property would flood cutting off any road access, halting deliveries and stranding any equipment stored in the barn. On one particularly memorable January day I had to wade into thigh deep pond water to rescue our tractor which basically floated out of the flooded barn. We spent more money than I care to remember on gravel and bits of pipe in the ground and now its all much more manageable. No longer do I lie awake at night listening to the rain fall and dreading the next day.
We had no staff, 1500 trees to plant, 8,000 litres of cider to bottle and one full time and one part time job to juggle with our work on the cidery. Most disturbing of all we had no idea if there was even a demand for local, handmade cider – was this all just a massive waste of time????
Well a year later and thanks to a ton of help from our family and friends what a different outlook! My parents (both in their 70’s) came out for a 4 week visit and transformed the tasting room. Our many good friends came out and planted trees on possibly the wettest day of the year. We were overwhelmed with volunteers to help us bottle and staff our stall at the farmers market. We hired some really great people and they helped us welcome a steady stream of visitors to the cidery. The local wineries took us under their wing, gave us great advice, sent visitors our way and became friends in the process. It truly takes a village to raise a cidery!
Although I still feel there is so much for us yet to achieve, there is no doubt we can now call ourselves a legitimate enterprise. I’ve given up my job in engineering which while scary has been incredibly liberating. I’m now living the life I dreamed of when I started this venture and I’m busier than ever tending our 25 totes of cider for this year and hatching plans to make the cidery an even more vibrant and exciting place for 2017. Quite what those plans are – you’ll have to read a future blog post to find out!