Every fall, I bucket up some apples and haul them over to Dave’s garage to make cider on his hand-cranked press. Whether he likes it or not, I’ve appointed my unassuming neighbor—a careful homesteader who’s tended his forest and fields for nearly 40 years—my godfather in sustainability and simple living. I am perpetually on his doorstep with questions about how to make better sauerkraut or to ascertain how frequently he mulches his trees. He brushes off my studious worship as if I were a fly pesking a loaf of his wood-fired oven–baked bread. Now Dave helps me to fit the crank on the press and I begin turning. Soon the hopper full of apple mash is forced to become juice. At first the cider trickles out, but soon it gushes and fills the collecting pot to the brim. Then we swap in a new pot, until all’s been squeezed from this batch of apples. Before unscrewing the press and emptying the sack of tawny mush called pomace, before we reset the press and begin the whole process again, we each fill a cup and drink a toast: to a good crop of apples, to the revolving seasons, and to my neighbor’s sustaining sweetness.
Welcome to the monthly Farmer’s Calendar podcast. These essays come from The Old Farmer’s Almanac annual publication. They are recorded by Julia Shipley, the author and poet. She draws from her life raising animals and vegetables on a small farm in Northern Vermont.