Self-Sufficiency Tribulations

By Charlie Robinson, Beechworth Sustainability

Was it Kermit who sang “it aint easy being green”?  Most of the time I would dispute Kermit’s assertion but there are times when things don’t go exactly according to plan.

Cider Making is a good example. No matter how badly I construct something, I want it to last, just so future archaeologists can marvel at the ineptitude of 21st Century humanity.  A case in point is my cider press.  Cider presses are usually made to withstand a lot of hard work and mine is no exception.  The press was bought locally and is exceedingly heavy with lots of cast iron pieces that wouldn’t seem out of place on a steam engine.  I then proceeded to build an equally massive table to support the press with steel girders for legs and several hardwood planks measuring 200mm X 45mm.  The planks were screwed to the girder supports by 12mm galvanised bolts, the table was then bolted to the concrete floor with eight dynabolts and then the press was secured to the table with even more 12mm bolts.

Having perused many books on cider-making I had not seen a more solid construction and I fantasised about the years of cider making in front of me.  I visualised large groups bringing their containers while raw apple juice cascaded into empty vessels to be converted into cider and vinegar.

Yeah, right!  On the day of the first pressing I arranged tables on which the apples would be washed and prepared prior to receiving the attention of the press.  Boxes of pink lady apples waited expectantly in rows waiting for their magical conversion into juice.  I then chopped the apples into fine pieces, loaded the press as high as we could, and proceeded to turn the large steel arm which compressed specially-cut timber to squash the apples into juice.  I turned and turned until I could compress the apples no further and waited for the juice to flow.

Nothing happened. Further hurried research revealed that I had overlooked one vital step – scratting.  Scratting is not an initiation ceremony for Duntroon cadets but refers to the process of pulping the apples prior to pressing. 

Locally-made scratters, powered by electricity, retail for around $1700 so the search continues for a more-viable option.  This story does have a happy ending so stay tuned.