It’s all in the family!
The Long Meadow is part of our farm which has been owned by the McKeever family for three generations. Through our stewardship, we have focussed on Bramley apple production, but each generation of our family has also had a policy of growing a mix of varieties and using different planting processes to further refine the apples we use. Each generation has passed on different methods and traditions to the next; from Peter (Senior) to Patrick to Peter (Junior) in order to grow and produce the perfect apples on our home farm. Our cider is pressed and fermented naturally by both father and son; Pat and Peter McKeever.
The lay of the land!
For many years, the orchard in The Long Meadow was known locally for the quality of its Bramley apples. In addition to all of the wider benefits enjoyed by County Armagh, The Long Meadow has an added advantage of being right beside the waters of the Upper Bann river. This river which is the longest in Northern Ireland, rises in the Deer’s Meadow in the Mourne Mountains (the meadow itself nestling under Slieve Muck). From there it flows into Spelga Dam, before meandering past The Long Meadow on its way to Lough Neagh, from there becoming the Lower Bann, which reaches the Atlantic Ocean beside Castlerock. When in flood, the Upper Bann has long provided silts and minerals to the lands surrounding The Long Meadow, which gains, in our opinion, an intangible benefit to the trees growing on our farm. More obviously, its waters permeate our soil, this in effect being the water of life to our trees.
For many centuries, apples have been selected for particular properties of yield, season, flavour and use (eg eating, baking, cider production). When a new variety is discovered or bred, new trees are propagated by grafting, a skilled technique where the desired apple type is ‘spliced’ into a rootstock of predictable vigour and strength. Our oldest apple trees are planted on M1-11 rootstock. These are vigorous growers where mature trees achieve a height of 15-20” (4.5-6m). Each tree can carry up to half a tonne of apples, but they are costly to prune, pick and manage. We have recently replaced 12 acres of orchard with trees on M9 rootstock. This is a much more restrictive sort which limits the growth and height to no more than 8’ (2.8m).…