John Richardson with words (and pictures) from the Eastern front:
The Orchard Report
This morning has dawned sluggishly and incredibly foggy in West Norfolk giving the orchard an overcoat of moisture and jewel-like spider’s webs. What a difference to the blue skies earlier in the Autumn when we were picking apples as well as the last of the late Marjorie Seedling plums to make jellies and plum sauce.
The crop this year has been a good one, some varieties bountiful others less so. Those that cropped heavily last year, like Golden Delicious, have a much smaller crop this year so it must be cyclical and, of course, weather linked too. A late frost damaged a lot of blossom as did some violent hail showers just as the early plums were forming on the branches and the blossom was on the apple trees.
In the last month bushel boxes have been filled with Queen Cox, Michaelmas Red, Jonagold , Discovery and Cox’s Orange Pippin. The Bramley’s have cropped particularly well this year as have the Comice and Beurre Hardy pears. The fruit has been placed in the cold store for eating over the winter months and the effort of taking a little time and care to wrap them in clean newsprint extends their storage life considerably.
With a little luck and no violent Autumn gales we should be picking the Bramleys until Christmas along with the Jonareds that haven’t matured yet. A couple of frosts will concentrate the sugars and make the Golden Delicious taste nothing like those you buy in the supermarket, just 100% better. When I walked the dogs yesterday evening I picked two Cox’s Orange Pippins one for me and one quartered for the Jack Russells and I think they enjoyed their apple pieces just as much as I did mine!
The early cooking apples, Grenadier and Emneth Early have come and gone and the surplus lies composting on the orchard floor. Strangely that curse of the plum, pear and apple picker, the drunken and bad tempered wasp, has been conspicuous by his absence. There’s nothing quite like a couple of those pissed black and yellow hooligans falling down your sleeve while you reach up for the perfect specimen on the next branch. Reminder to self in diary; carry a bottle of vinegar when they are up to their ASBO needing stunts.
Three new projects are being planned for next year. We’d like to purchase some equipment to extract the juice from our colossal apple surplus and to make some cider too. A first tentative step into beekeeping is being researched and planned as well. The wild flowers in the orchards, the blossom and the long Victorian flower bed, all fifty yards of it, that we are developing in the front garden should provide the little workers with tons of opportunities and us with some delicious ‘home grown’ honey.
Next year I should get Andrews of Arcadia up here along with Jeff for some fishing and then they can take a box of apples back to the Caught by the River bunker and taste apples like they used to be and in some places still are.