As you drive the hill around Sebastopol you will see many old apple orchards, white with blossom in the spring and warm with color in the fall. These orchards represent are an important cultural and historical legacy in our region, but sadly the apple industry has been in decline since the 1970’s, out-competed by larger, more modern operations in other parts of the country, and overseas. While many orchards were turned over to the grapes, and some were simply left untended, the working orchards that have survived and thrived have done so by growing with new specialist markets. The local industry has recently got the attention and public support of the international Slow Food Movement which seeks to preserve biodiversity and regionally important foods. What we have lost in quantity has perhaps been made up in quality and complexity.
Since most of the wood for the Redwood Violin will be apple wood and I wanted to learn more about where it might have come from. We went to visit our friends Chad and Andrea Frick who farm the Vulture Hill Orchard, between Graton and Occidental in the Salmon Creek watershed. Their orchard is organic, dry-farmed, and founded on trees that were planted 100 – 150 years ago. Their business has survived and grown with the rise of the specialty cider industry in the area. Chad, who is well known for his apple wizardry and lichen knowledge has converted the original eating-apple trees to produce the more tannic and intensely flavored, apples wanted by savvy brewers to make a more engaging drink. Most of Chads apples go to Tilted Shed Cider Works in Windsor.
Follow on Instagram @vulture_hill.
During our visit I started to get a sense of the depth of history and knowledge contained in these hillside acres.