Friday, 19 November 2010

Ownership of stuff on-line

Fess up those who abuse copyright...

I'm not very happy at the moment to find that a certain James Russell, blog writer and 'author' of 'The Naked Guide to Cider' is using one of my photos both on his blog and (apparently - because I haven't read it) in his book. Now I'm an open minded and dare I say, helpful chap, giving up lots of time to help folks learn about and become confident in making their own cider - and for all the hours I help people I don't charge a penny. Most of what I do is of course on groups such as The Cider Workshop (the real one; not the sub-standard clones generated by ukcider's empire-building activities) and in particular as an Admin member of the Cider Workshop Google-group . I am also helping a number of folks local to me here in Nottinghamshire and across the border into Derbyshire with help vie email or at the end of a phone.

I was surfing those blogs with stuff about cider when I spotted a link to an article about my good friend and fellow cider-maker Rose Grant, when I stumbled across one of the photos that I took in 2006 during a visit to Rose's wonderful Dorset cider-making emporium (shown left). The photo showed no acknowledgement of the photographer. After contacting Rose, I am told that the same photo appears in James Russell's book for which I assume he is getting money. Again, it would appear that the photo has been used without checking whether he has the right to use it from the owner of said image (me) who I would assume still owns intellectual and moral rights to the image...   

I don't blame Rose, she just passed over some images; as she says, she doesn't take photos of herself. Rose asked if she could use the image on her own blog and of course, I had no objections. But I am not happy that the person who now uses these images for profit did not check fully that he had the right to do so. Let's make it clear as well that I don't want any money out of Mr Russell's pocket; judging by all of the mass email onslaught and on-line 'presence' being generated to publicise his book, he should be making a pretty dollar out of it? However, if I started copying stuff out his blog, book(s) or whatever and started making money from it, I'm quite sure he wouldn't be very happy.

I have tried to contact Mr. Russell via his blog and via a direct Twitter message to ask him about why he is using my image without my permission or acknowledgement, but he hasn't responded. Maybe he's out of the country...?

If anyone spots him at one of the events to publicise his book that he pushes via Twitter and Facebook, maybe you could let him know that I am trying to contact him? Or perhaps ask him on my behalf whether he is certain that he has the right to use all of the content in his book with the permission of the copyright owners?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Out and About with the Beeb

The good folks at BBC Radio Nottingham have been very supportive of our efforts to produce true, real Nottinghamshire ciders. They have also cottoned on to the fact that as Nottinghamshire's only commercial producers of real cider, we are a bit unique. OK I know we are a very small producer but size isn't everything (cough!).

Following a recent visit to the BBC Radio Nottingham studios to chat with Andy Whittaker (who is a very nice man) and taste our cider - at 8.20 in the morning I might add - a quick appeal for apples and pears has resulted in the good folk of Nottinghamshire answering the call to arms. We have been very pleased by the response of folks who have fruit to spare that would otherwise be going to waste, composted or left to rot. We don't want to take the best fruit, as for cider it doesn't really matter what it looks like or if it is a bit bruised. Lots of people have phoned us or emailed us to let us know what they have going spare; some folks like Mr. Chappel in Hucknall, just turned up at our base with the car loaded with ready-picked and boxed-up apples. How kind and cool is that?

However, we would just like to point out that we can only collect so much fruit per day - and Nottinghamshire is a big county - so if we haven't got back to you straight away, don't panic. Many varieties of apple are still not fully ripened sufficiently for cider-making (they need to be starting to soften) so always remember that just because they are falling from the tree does not mean they are fully ripe. Thankfully we didn't need to turn many folks down as nearly everyone heeded our plea that Bramley's are not too much use to us for cider - they contain too much acidity for cider unless left to ripen for some months.

So yesterday I wound my way around Nottingham's ring-road (joy of joys) to the little town of Ruddington, just south of the city. Here I met up with Verity Cowley, radio journalist for BBC Radio Nottingham and Dan Sinclair who is a 'back-room boy' if you like, at BBC Nottingham  - whizz-kid with a camera and website production. We went first to Kathy and Ken's house who had phoned me offering Worcester Pearmains from their trees. I also spotted a pear tree in their garden and Ken kindly offered to let me have any spare Winter Nelis (the pear variety) for use in making a Nottinghamshire perry. An offer not to be refused! Verity followed the activities with microphone-in-hand getting sound bites and noises-off, while Dan snapped away from multitudinous angles and distances.

We then went across town to visit John and Jean, who had phoned me that very morning saying they had a couple of trees if I was interested...? John's garden was very large and impressive with neat lawns, productful vegetable plots and greenhouses, and some lovely big old apple trees: Beauty of Bath, Newton Wonder and some unknown apple that was very crisp and sweet, and reminded me of a Cox of some sort. John did point out a very large Bramley tree, but quickly added; "I know you are not interested in Bramley's..." The Beauty of Bath were a lovely deep red, very juicey and when cut open, showed red and pink tinged hues through the flesh. John thought they were too soft, but with a quick press of the pad of my thumb, the juice flowed - perfect state of ripeness for cider-making.

Once again Verity and Dan started recording sound and images while I spread out the tarpaulins under the tree and started to shake the apples down from the branches. John joined in and soon the apples were raining down and slapping onto the tarpaulins. Sack after sack were filled and the trailer was soon full of sweet-smelling apples. Time was against us so I am going back to John's to collect more of the Cox-like apples, perhaps in a couple of weeks when they will be riper.

The fruit of Dan's labours can be seen here on the BBC Nottingham website - just try to ignore the fat bloke with the glasses on... Verity's interviews and sound-bites will be broadcast on the morning of 30th September on BBC Radio Nottingham, between 8.00 and 9.00 am.

Great day, great fun. It is good meeting up with the friendly folk of Nottinghamshire.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Tempus fugit - ad nauseum!!!

Sunset from Croft Ambrey on summer-solstice 2010
 There just aren't enough hours in the day at the moment... What a busy summer - where did it go? One minute we were watching the sun set on Summer Solstice day from the summit of Croft Ambrey Iron-age hill fort north of Leominster in the company of the Marches Cyder Circle, the next... Well - being inundated with offers of apples and pears of all sorts from the good folks of Nottinghamshire, after listening to our little interview, tasting and appeal for excess fruit on BBC Radio Nottingham. Mind you, drinking our 8.4% ABV cider at 8.20am is not the sort of thing I'd recommend you do on a daily basis...

The work on the plot continues - sadly I have not been able to reach the big pear tree in time so I fear the pears - whatever they are - will be lost for this year. We have had bumper crops of Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Gages, Damsons, Plums - and of course apples. We threw lots of these into jams and crumbles and pies. The battle with the brambles shows little sign of success but we have shifted a great deal and are making headway. We need to clear the rest soon to get the heeled-in trees into the ground. Yarly was sort of helpful, but wasn't too keen on the bramble thorns having-a-go at her pads. 

Yarly posing in front of a wall of brambles
The cider shed is now filled with lovely smells and delightful 'plopping' sounds as the first ciders of 2010 get underway on their fermenting-journey into 2011. Gravities are still low-ish compared to last year, being around SG 1046 - SG 1050 (6.0% - 6.5% ABV). We hope to have a little cider ready by the early part of 2011 to supply a festival or two. However, we do want to keep the sales limited this year until we are sure it is at it's best. But the phone keeps ringing, the emails still keep coming in and people still want it for their pubs and festivals, even though we sold out in early August. We are hoping to take delivery of some 1,000 litre IBC's soon so that we can try to satisfy demand with our planned increase in production.

The last of the pre-ordered 2010 ciders will go out of the door in a couple of weeks for the 2010 Nottingham CAMRA Robin Hood Beer & Cider Festival (14th - 17th October).

Morgan Sweet
The first fruits have ripened well on our new 'orchard plot' - the lovely big and juicy Morgan Sweets have already been processed and the bright red Tremlett's Bitters will join them soon. A few Yarlington Mill's and Harry Master's Jersey's will need a few more weeks to ripen I think.
Tremletts Bitter


Thursday, 20 May 2010

Figgy Pudding...

Maybe one year......?

A wander around the Torkard Estates revealed that the Fig tree that we planted in 2009 has survived the winter cold and the wet. This was a great surprise being that we bought this sad little specimen from the local Wilkinson's hardware store when they were selling them off; it had been left on the shelf, un-watered and was in a very bad way. For a few pence though, I thought it worth a go and so it was taken home and planted where we used to have a large Madeleine Angevine grape vine growing up the wall of the house. Lots of TLC and plenty of grit have meant that it has struggled through and now has lots of bright green fresh growth. I love figs and when we travel around Spain, I am always amazed by the number of wild fig trees growing at the side of the country roads. I have no idea whether it will ever bear fruit, but it is in a sheltered sun-trap so we will see. 

 After journeying to one of the further-flung Torkard Estates, I was very pleased to find that the blossom had opened on some of our Tremlett's Bitter cider-apple trees. This is the second season that these trees have been in the ground, so I am going to let the blossom stay on the trees with the hope of getting a couple of these full bittersweet apples. I will have to thin them though if too many apples set - these babies really need more time to develop strong roots and some form of structure before I can let them (hopefully!) go mad and bear lots of fruit. Yarly (our young dog in the background) can't understand why I spend so much time fiddling with the trees instead of playing with her... 

Yarly was very inquisitive and provided good company when I went exploring around the third side of our plot... We have cleared one side and spent some time repairing, training and replanting the original Hawthorn hedge; we have also had to remove a great deal of Elder, which although provides flowers and fruit great for wine, is a pain in the way it stunts and slows the growth of Hawthorn by the amount of shade it casts. The second boundary has been partly cleared of the tangle of briars and other growths - the old Hawthorn hedge had previously been mostly hacked down apart from a couple of stumps - but there are a number of plum-type trees growing further along the boundary which I suspect are either Sloe or Damson, though I've not seen much evidence of typical blossom.

The above photo was taken after we'd eventually reached the far opposite corner of the plot from the entrance. It took a good few hours to hack and chainsaw my way through the undergrowth to reach this corner, where I uncovered a pear tree of unknown origin - it had been so well hidden by the overgrown hedges and ivy that I never knew it was there! Looking at the photo, the amount of work still to be done to clear the rest of the plot before the autumn is daunting, but it will be fun (I hope). Fingers crossed that I do not find any more Japanese Knotweed...  

I also have a bag of onion sets that I need to get into the ground... plus a load of Garlic sets that I have nurtured from our own garden. Better start digging.  

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Fresh young thing...

2 Bees has landed

We were offered quite a few Jonagold apples last year and as these are dessert apples, I was not sure what to do with them. Jonagolds are an American-bred apple from the 1940's, produced by cross-pollinating Jonathan apples with Golden Delicious... hence the name. The fact that Golden Delicious apples were part of the Jonagold parenthood, did not endear them to me! However, after consulting with the good and  knowledgeable folks on The Cider Workshop the news came from some folks "across the pond" in the US of A that Jonagolds make a perfectly good cider. So the idea of fermenting them separately and seeing if they were suitable as a single-variety cider germinated.

After careful racking and blending of the various containers of Jonagold cider, I was very pleasantly surprised by the results and so we decided that it was worth the gamble in offering this cider as a Single Variety. Now we are not claiming that this is a "vintage" cider - but it is light, refreshing and crisp. Dessert apples are often higher in acidity than the traditional cider-apples like bittersweets such as Dabinett or Yarlington Mill, but the Jonagolds seem just fine: slightly sharp, but no more than many a West Country cider I have tasted. It is also much hazier than I am used to, with a fine pale burnt-orange colour; whether the haze and colour will last as it matures, I'm not sure. However, after years of making clear ciders without trying, we are quite amused to have produced a hazy one. Hopefully this will also please the die-hards who claim that it can't be a "proper" cider unless it is cloudy... Hmmm - I'll pass on that one! At present it is slightly sweet, sort of off-dry rather than dry, and has an ABV of about 8.4% - this is a reflection of the naturally high sugar-levels of Jonagold apples, as we do not add any sugars to our ciders, they are fermented from pure fresh-pressed apple juice. At the moment it looks as if "2 Bees" first public appearance will be at the 15th Newark CAMRA Beer Festival 28th-30th May, 2010 - a Nottinghamshire debut for a Nottinghamshire cider: very apt.

By the way, the name for this cider came before the cider... I wanted to name one of our ciders in celebration of the fact that Gail and I got married in 2009, and as we both now have the same surname beginning with "B" so calling it "Two B's" - or "2 Bees" - seemed natural. I've always had a fondness for Bumble Bees so the image for the label popped into my head almost instantaneously - with a little artistic licence of course.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

In praise of Sol (Part II: The Sequel)

Humph - everyone's a critic...

After spending the last 12 days or so exploring the cider-makers, real-ale brewers and watering holes of Norfolk, it is pleasing to be able to report that there are other cider-makers with vision out there who are also fans of solar panels...

Jim and Pete at Whin Hill Cider, Wells-next-the-Sea, are waiting for final planning approval for their array of Photovoltaic solar panels to be fitted onto the roof of one of their cider shed roofs: much better looking than sheets of corrugated iron... This will not only supply all their electrical power needs, but will also make them a tidy profit by selling the surplus electricity to the National Grid. Plus the fact that grants are available for installing Photovoltaic panels makes this a no-brainer for Jim and Pete.

I hope that a certain Middleton-based cider-maker will (*cough*) remember the six bottles of Whin Hill's best SV cider (3 Brown's and 3 Major)  that we have brought all the way back for him - at great personal sacrifice, may I add - when he next compiles his Top Ten Cider Blogs... Otherwise they may meet an "accident" before being delivered...

More on our travels later.

Friday, 2 April 2010

In praise of Khepri, Ra and Atum...

A few words about Solar Power - or in this instance, Solar Water Heating.

We've had a Photovoltaic solar panel for some years now to provide electrical power for the 12v systems on the caravan - its a large 50 watt panel, so produces loads of useful power and drives the numerous 12v systems in our van even on a cloudy day. The concept of "free" energy is a non-starter of course as manufacturing these systems and buying them are quite costly on many levels. However, the photovoltaic panel does give us the freedom to stay at many small caravan sites for long periods of time without having to worry about the battery going 'dead' and leaving us without light and water pumps. We are not keen on sites that have mains electric hook-ups because they tend to attract those with massive vans who spend 90% of their time sat in their vans in front of the telly... Why bother going away?

So with some real-world experience and a lot of background research, I was quite struck on the idea of using some form of solar power to heat or pre-heat the water for our home. I'd been to the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth in Powys, Wales in the early '90's and had been impressed with much of the stuff I saw - and I vividly remember seeing the amount of hot water they were getting by painting old steel flat-panel radiators matt-black, placing them in a sunny position, and pumping water through them... Hmmm.

The recent BBC TV series "It's Not Easy Being Green", with moustachioed Dick Strawbridge as the driving force, rekindled my interest, particularly with the advancements in solar technologies. I was captivated by the episode where they installed the solar water heaters at Newhouse Farm. I was also well impressed by the water-wheel providing electricity, but that's another story...

During our stint working the Cider & Perry Bar at the Moorgreen Show at Watnall in August '09, I had chance for a break and a wander round the site. During this amble, I came across a stall run by a local company who specialised in sustainable, renewable and solar heating applications, so I picked up a leaflet. Time to do some more research. Fortunately, the rear of our house faces SSW, so gets sunshine from about 9.00am until the sun sets, and the pitch of the roof is quite steep - ideal for a solar collector in these latitudes. The second photo here was taken at about 9.30am in late March. By December 2009, I felt informed enough to go for it, so started getting an idea of costs and quotes.
We decided on a local company called Solar-Heat UK, mainly due to Chris, the boss and technical wizard, being straightforward and open about the job and quote. No sucking in of air through teeth or loads of glossy brochures, nor did he turn up in a flash car and wearing a suit... With clipboard in hand, it only took him 10 minutes to survey the house, airing cupboard and loft. He said the job would be quite simple and it was, all done and dusted in two days. Apart from the solar collector array of evacuated tubes on the roof, the only other obvious signs of the conversion are a larger hot water storage tank and a few extra bits of pipe in the airing cupboard. There is a little bit more in the attic space with additional pumps, a pressure vessel and a small radiator to shed excess heat during hot sunny days.

As mentioned previously, the interesting bit for me is the animated information screen on the control panel; this shows the activity of the two pumps and the temperature displayed from the three sensors in the system: one at the solar collector, one at the top of the hot water storage tank, and one at the bottom of the tank. Over the past fortnight at the end of March 2010, with showers of rain and sleet, cold winds, the odd sunny spell and an ambient outside day-time temperature of 10C to 14C maximum, the hot water boiler hasn't even fired up for four days, the solar collector easily raising the water temperature at the bottom of the tank to 51C... And this is with the cold feed coming into the bottom of the tank at about 10C - 12C! Even on the grim and cloudy days of this early spring, the solar collector has managed to pre-heat the water at the bottom of the tank to between 25C - 30C, so reducing the amount of energy needed by the boiler to heat the water. So looking good so far. I'll be very interested to monitor the meter readings and energy bills though over the long term.    

So would I recommend solar water heating? Definitely, but with some provisos. Financially: If you have an electric shower and don't use the bath much, it will take many years to pay for itself. We have a gravity-fed shower from the hot water tank, so are already reaping the benefits. Some sources quote savings on heating water of only £50 per year; I think this is pessimistic - and is also based on recent fuel prices. If we do only save £50 per year, it could take us over 60 years to recoup our costs - strewth! However, as we currently pay over £700 a year for our energy (so little you cry?), I am convinced that the savings for us will be much more than this. Does anyone believe fuel prices (Gas / Electric) will fall though? From a long-term viewpoint, I think we have made the right choice from both an environmental and financial stance. Better still for those thinking about it, grants for renewable and sustainable energy resources - including solar hot water systems - come on-line in 2011. We decided not to wait...  

Oh and for those who didn't know, Khepri was the ancient Egyptian God of the rising or morning sun and Atum was the ancient Egyptian God of the evening or setting sun. Ra was of course the God of the noon-day sun.  

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Flying out the door...

It is turning out to be a busy Easter for us.

Last Thursday evening we delivered a 20 litre box of our Sheep Wash cider to the The Hand & Heart on Derby Road in Nottingham NG1 5BA, on more of a trial basis than anything, to see how it would go down. Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday), the pub manager Austen phoned me to ask if he could have another two boxes as it had sold out already... Selling 20 litres of draught local cider in about four days is quite a result and we are well chuffed. All being well, Torkard Ciders will become a regular feature of the fare available at The Hand & Heart.

We delivered another box of Sheep Wash to the Talbot Taphouse on Butterly Hill in Ripley DE5 3LT this afternoon for their Easter 1st Taphouse Beer & Cider "Best in Cask" Festival, starting this Friday at 12 noon. Afterwards, Yarly (the mutt) and I went on a long circular walk around Felley Mill, over the fields and through the woods. While strolling along in the biting wind and sleet, I amused myself by trying to work out how we could all get to the Talbot Taphouse for their festival (they are a dog-friendly pub), as they also have on some of our favourite ales too: Thornbridge "Jaipur" and Whim "Hartington IPA" to name but two. The festival is also to celebrate "National Cask Ale Week" which is a good excuse (as if you need one...) for a pint of real ale.

Tomorrow I will be boxing-up two ciders for The Victoria Hotel, Dovecote Lane, Beeston NG9 1JG. The Victoria are also having a festival over Easter and have decided to try out our cider to see how it goes down with the festival goers and locals: fingers crossed... Landlord Graham has asked for two versions of Sheep Wash so I think it will be something dry-ish and something medium-ish - or maybe medium-sweet-ish.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Torkard Cider on the media trail...

The last couple of weeks have been very busy for us from a local media point of view.

Budget day was the day when we were contacted twice by BBC Radio Nottingham for comments about the 10% plus inflation hike in cider duty. Typically, with it being a nice day and Gail having the day off, we had gone to Burnt Stump Country Park for a wander round, and to exercise and train the dog. So when my phone rang and the nice lady from BBC Radio Nottingham asked if they could interview me, and get some sound bites about the cider duty proposals in the Budget, I had no idea what she was on about as the Budget had not even been unveiled before we left home. Caught out there! However, by the time they phoned again for a live on-air interview around 6.00pm, I was genned-up and ready.

One question though: why, Why, WHY do radio interviewers insist on playing the Wurzel's song "I am a cider-drinker" and talking in a faux West-Country-yokel accent when interviewing people about cider? Grrrr! I find it really irritating and condescending - but of course, you laugh and smile politely and carry on through gritted teeth. Please try to find something else to play next time - and I am a Nottinghamshire cider-maker which is way away from the West Country - unless my geography is not what it is cracked up to be!

I'd much prefer a local dialect, like the "Erewash Valley" dialect from the Derby's / Nott's border where I grew up, which is much richer to my ears and brings back memories of my childhood / youth and listening to my dad's workmates from Sandiacre, Long Eaton and I'lson (Ilkeston to the uninitiated). So something like: "Aye up me duck, wot yer reckon t'budget then?" would be far more appealing to my ears!

We were also visited by Spyke Golding, chair of Nottingham CAMRA and editor of their excellent Branch magazine, who wanted to interview us for an article on local cider makers. They have a regular section on "Meet the Brewer", so we became the first subjects of a "Meet the Cider-Maker" article. The April/May 2010 issue containing the article can be found in many pubs around the locality, or you can read the article online at: Nottingham Drinker

Friday, 26 March 2010

Aaaargh! Where has the time gone...?

Here we are at the end of March, spring is almost upon us - chronologically at least - and I haven't added anything to this blog since last December. Shame on me.

So much has happened it is difficult to know where to begin...?
How about snow; frost; snow; more snow; deeper snow; ice; burst pipe in cider shed; colder frost; frozen and cracked airlocks; snow..... I think you get the picture. The weather has really made life difficult in trying to get the trees planted up on the orchard, as we still have a lot of land to clear and trees to heavily prune and pollard. Still, the heeled-in trees look happily snug and smug in their little bed for the time being.

Santa came and brought me lots of goodies in the shape of three varieties of crab apple trees (from my mum) to aid pollination and to give us a range of edible crabs which we can mess about with. More about them later. My brother and sis-in-law brought me a Felco No. 8 pruner which is excellent, along with a Silky Fox 300mm Gomtaro Apple pruning saw - which is a bit frightening at the moment. However, both have already seen use in trying to bring some shape and structure back to our Stoke Red.

We have also invested in a mutt... Namely a "Lollie" which we have called "Yarly". I kid you not. A Lollie is a cross between a Labrador and a Border Collie (a sort of glorified mongrel if you like), and we have named her Yarly after our favourite cider apple, the Yarlington Mill. Yarly has really interesting colouring: her mother is a sleek black Labrador and her father is a chocolate-brown and white Border Collie, so Yarly has turned out silver-grey with black patterning which is the result of Blue Merle patterning from her father's Border Collie genes. 

Yarly - The Movie. Cert: PG

On the home front, we have had a Solar Water Heating Panel installed on our roof which is already proving its worth - much to my surprise and amazement, I have to add. The bare bones of the installation involved a panel full of the evacuated-tube solar collectors, a much larger (and better insulated) hot water storage tank, a couple of pumps and motorsied valves - and a fascinating animated display panel (boys toys). It is amazing to see (and feel!) hot water being pumped from the collectors into the storage tank at over 45C when the outside ambient temp is only 14C... Our hot water boiler never even fired up yesterday - I can't wait until there is some proper spring and summer sunshine...

Our cider has started to go out - earlier than I'd really like, but the customer is (nearly) always right. Our first outing this year was at Chesterfield Beer Festival in February, where we trialled our new blend called "Sheep Wash". It was / is very young, but rather tasty. The cider and perry list was really impressive - as was the beer list - but we stuck to the great ciders and perries available and worked our way through the lot (apart from the couple of sickly-sweet ones and the Broadoak rubbish... ugh!). We were very surprised to find out from Trev, one of the organisers, that our 'Sheep Wash' cider was voted "Cider of the Festival" by the punters - great news! Another framed certificate to add to our "multi-award winning" portfolio of five winners.

We delivered a box of 'Sheep Wash' to the Hand & Heart pub on Derby Rd in Nottingham last night - our first pub outlet in the city. A lovely pub, great atmosphere, good food, good local real ales and two local ciders: ours and one from "Three Cats" across the border in Derbyshire. It is very pleasing to find publicans willing to wholeheartedly embrace local ales and local ciders! Well done.

Next week we are off to Ripley in Derby's to deliver our cider to the Talbot Taphouse, the brewery tap of Amber Ales. They are having a festival over the Easter weekend and have asked for our cider; hopefully it will go down well and they will want more over the coming warmer months.