A Day In A Life..
Monday. June 13, 2022..
Sound sleep, with wild dreams full of Southern California landscapes — a rush of restaurants and parakeets and lavish, living-history villages.
I woke early, about 5 AM, did my banking and a sales forecast. All of our programs, combined, are up 86% over last year, but I contemplate the long, dry, hot, lonely summer. (For some reason, we haven’t yet figured out how to coax you up here, in numbers, during July and August, and this low-revenue period always leaves me on edge.)
The K-cup coffee machine is broken, so I make pour-over fresh coffee in the kitchen. The ritual of tea kettle and fresh grounds is soothing. I check my pair of three-gallon hard cider batches. Batch #1 needs to be bottled. It is getting very dry and bubble-free, and I remind myself to research how you get effervescent (bubbling) cider with a hint of sweetness, even though the “sweetness” could cause further ferment and make for exploding bottles. I am reading a craft cider book where the author makes this lament (paraphrasing): “People don’t expect wine to taste like grape juice or beer to taste like barley, but they do expect cider to taste like apples.” In truth, true hard cider is very dry stuff — something like Pinot Grigio.
I return to my office and contemplate the next event I need to sell — Father’s Day and Colonial Faire. Father’s Day is slightly ahead of this time last year, and when I put out a marketing message last week with this tag, “Your Dad Is Thinking About You,” a few guests scolded me. Their dads were gone–passed away. How could I possibly tell them their dads were thinking about them? How INSENSITVE. I told them I meant no offense. One of them assured me my intentions were not good enough. I needed to apologize and hire a marketing firm to make me nice and neutral like Applebee’s. I tried to reason with her. (She was last here with a girl scout troop in 2006.) I said, “imagine a jewelry company conducted a campaign with the message, “your husband cares about you,” and someone responded, “not ME, he doesn’t! My husband left me for his yoga instructor-hussy!” Well, my detractor wouldn’t have anything to do with my shameless rationalizations. She was nursing her anger. It gave her a glow.
(My own father passed away in 2007 and if someone pitched me with an ad reading “Your Dad is Thinking About You,” I would NOT take offense. I would smile and start singing McNamara’s Band in honor of the dad who was thinking about me.)
I composed an Instagram pitch about Colonial Faire. It appeared to be rejected by Instagram, but both Mary and I saw it on our feed, and yet something was wrong. On that platform, we usually get a lot of views and likes instantly. This picture kept reporting “1 view.” I thought to myself, “are we getting shadow-banned?” I made up my mind, after my burning-hot elliptical workout, to try a new version of the ad, with only live music captured here on the farm (a copyright violation?) and removing the hash-tag “#muskets” (millennial ‘fact-checker’ mistaking a flintlock musket for a fully-automatic special forces weapon?). It worked. Sales for Colonial Faire started coming in.
We needed to get the cash in the bank. I reminded Mary. I also asked her — very uncharacteristic for me — to help me “rack” the cider (batch one) into a new vessel. She hesitated. “How long is this going to take?” she asked.
She helped me, but it was a mess. Cider all over her hard wood floors. She was casual. She knows all the Rileys have to get into hard cider production. She’s been a big advocate of this version of the long term Oak Glen picture, so, um, I had this advantage. I didn’t press it.
I did my “sweetness and effervescence” research. It turns out you sweeten the final batch to taste, with fresh cider, or sugar, and you BOTTLE the result. You then fill a test plastic bottle for timing, so that you can measure how close it is to explosion and then, when the test plastic bottle is close to being dangerous, you pasteurize the rest of the bottles, to kill the yeast and keep them from turning your kitchen into a crime scene. (In a commercial establishment, I’m guessing you won’t need the near exploding bottle, of course, what with all the calibration and metering and temperature control.)
I took a 23.6 ounce bottle of the resulting brew down to our cider cellar for a test.
Late afternoon. I drive Mary’s deposit down to the bank. The change request is surreal. We need $300 in one dollar bills, but the money Chase Bank gives us looks like Monopoly currency. It is stiff and brand new. I think of the Weimar Republic. I drive over to Staples for a new UPS back-up battery. (One of our NAS drives went down today because the battery died.) I take solace in seeing several choices on the shelf and I marvel at people shopping. (I never shop anymore. I buy all the farm supplies online.)
I do a hands-free call to Mary and propose the Del Mar Grill in Yucaipa for dinner. She hesitates, because she has tried to be frugal, putting a few chips in the microwave, but she places my order. When I arrive at the Del Mar, I note that I will have to wait for my order, but I am no longer annoyed by this ritual. The food is that good. It is worth waiting for. The crispy chicken tacos leave juicy grease all over your Land’s End cotton shirt, but that’s more than okay.
I have no idea what the summer will bring us. Yucaipa is dry. I see an old guy walking through the weeds in front of a house near 3rd Street. He plows across the tall weeds and I have no idea where he is going, but if I were bolder, I would stop and find out his story. For now, I just register Southern California inland summers, that arid Mentone beach style grit and dust and hot gravel. Around here, you need ice and sliced cucumbers and watermelon and a shady porch. You need to fall asleep with a fan raking you, saying, “it’s okay; it’s totally okay.”
I drive home. Mary is chipper. Gabriel tells stories. There are more than a few crispy chicken tacos left. All is well..
Tags: Cider, Colonial Faire, Day in the Life, Father's Day, Ferment, Riley's Farm
Categorised in: Farm Journal
This post was written by Jim Riley