Thursday

Cider John

Cider John

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In our part of North Devon, John Symmonds is famous. Famous not in the modern way of fame, in that he is famous merely for being famous, but in the old manner of fame in that he is famous amongst his peers for possessing certain skills and practical knowledge and as a custodian of something special. For “Cider John”, as he is known locally, is a maker of cider, and not just any old cider, but cider made in the manner of cider crafted on small yeoman farms in Somerset and Devon for centuries. The process of “Cider John’s” alchemy is a relatively simple affair, yet it requires certain irreplaceable essentials before commencement.

Hay Barns & Sheds and Corn Shellers

Hay Barns & Sheds and Corn Shellers

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Hay Barns & Sheds and Corn Shellers

Moorlands and Meadows

Moorlands and Meadows

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It all started by chance. A chance turn up a newly tarred mountain road on our way to Dundalk, we were amazed to find families cutting turf. A friend give us a slane (turf spade) made from the oar of a boat. The paddle covered with tin, the handle a cow’s horn. We rented a plot. It was never our intention to cut ‘a world of turf’; even then we were conscious of its environmental importance. Our neighbours on the bog were two genteel older men and a detached young fella who done – not a hands turn – but amble over and ask, “How many bags?” Never another word but a forlorn ‘how many bags.’ Later we were to learn he was Ireland’s most brilliant nuclear physicist; chilling out.

Horsedrawn Circle Letter

So What’s the Plan?

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Here it often works like this: Mark hopes to get everything done today. Mark finishes one good project. Mark asks Kristin what he should do next. Kristin asks Mark what the options are. Mark and Kristin and Jane walk the fields and feel like solitary ants trying to make an anthill. Mark cajoles Kristin. “Why don’t you take a couple days off of writing so we can whip this farm into shape?” Kristin reminds Mark that it is bedtime (7:30 or 8:00). Mark wakes up next day, does a few things. Repeat above.