Every day is a School Day!
Our Indian summer, aka September, was a time of learning for us, starting with a visit to the Orchard Link Annual Gathering. Orchard Link is a group of orchard owners based in Devon who share ideas, knowledge and equipment. Unfortunately there is no such group in Somerset (not that we have found anyway) but travelling to Devon to meet them is no hardship. So a lovely day was spent travelling to a pretty village near even prettier Kingsbridge in lovely late summer sunshine.
The first part of the day was spent being shown around the Trees for Health Agroforesty Project, with its fruit and nut orchards and its understory planting. Although we are not going down that route ourselves, they had some great ideas and it was interesting to see what had worked for them and what hadn’t, and to compare their young almond trees with ours (ours has more almonds!:))
We then had a tour around a traditional orchard, most of which was planted around 16 years ago. Seeing the trees laden with apples was a real treat and it made it easier to imagine ours big enough to produce a crop. Sops in Red Wine is one of my favourite trees here. We have two that have taken particularly well and have beautiful dusky pink leaves, and it was lovely to see one fully grown and laden with beautiful bright red apples, that have pink flesh on the inside. It is a heavy cropping cider and cooking apple, which also juices well.
The hosts for the meeting run a really lovely holiday let business with converted barns and a fabulous old barn converted into a function room recently completed, which would make a great party venue for a group. http://www.beesonhols.co.uk/holiday-cottages.htm
A juice and cider tasting session followed, and we even managed to win a gallon of cider made by our hosts in the raffle. A good end to a very useful day.
And then came…..the ALIEN! As already detailed and pictured on our FB page, we had an unwelcome visitor or two to the orchard. One tree had lost most of its leaves so I set up the field camera to see what had taken a fancy to it. What I did not expect it to pick up was a seemingly flying caterpillar! But sure enough, it was. I set out to find them, and sure enough did. It was hard not to find really. They were huge. Like, huge. Identified first by Rachel, who receives a prize from our online shop, it was a hawk eye moth caterpillar. Three trees decimated, but hopefully they will survive the attack.
A lucky find by my brother-in-law and a further discussion with some visiting friends may just have set off another challenge for us. B-I-L arrived armed with a bottle of Wraxall sparkling wine, picked up in a farm shop. It was certainly sparkly and in a blind test I would have sworn it was Champagne. Even better, it is from a Somerset vineyard! http://www.wraxallvineyard.co.uk/sparkling-wines.html I haven’t tried their other wines, but the sparkling is definitely worth seeking out.
So added to my to-do list now is:
a) take a tour of the vineyard and learn more about growing vines
b) grow vines!
Meanwhile in the hen run, we have a new addition. OH has cleverly added some guttering to the covered area and placed a water butt inside. Thanks to some overnight rain our hens now have running fresh water on tap. I am expecting their moult to begin soon, which will mean a drop in egg production so have been freezing eggs (not in a fertility clinic kind of way – these are gently whisked and frozen in silicone muffin cases initially, perfect to defrost and cook when needed) ready for the possible barren weeks ahead. Ginger, a Cotswold Legbar and our oldest hen by some years (now about 7 years old) has decided to lay the odd egg, which is amazing being as I thought we were going to lose her a few months ago. She seems to like taking her place in the nesting box whether or not she is going to lay and definitely remains top of the pecking order. I just hope this coming winter is kind to her.
Talking of winter = Christmas = look no further than our online shop for some lovely stocking fillers!!
Pic: Ginger, photographed by Clare “Marsty” Venning.