Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Russets missing

 In these days of Covid-19 we are keeping close to home to avoid the risk of infection. We've not put a lot of work into the orchard, but we have been keeping an eye on it. The grass has been allowed to grow long, but the fruit trees are sufficiently mature that it does not greatly affect them.

A couple of weeks ago we had a good crop of Russet apples on the Egremont tree. I don't normally pick them until late October/Early November as they are a late apple and the delay enhances their flavour. Today (27th October ) I decided to harvest the crop. However on arrival, I found not a single apple on the tree and none on the ground below.

It looks like we've had the crop stolen.

It takes quite a lot of work to maintain the orchard, and it is very disappointing to not reap the benefits. In my current frame of mind I'm tempted to apply for planning permission on the site, which is outside of greenbelt, with good road access. I know the authorities are looking for locations to provide and fund social housing for migrants. There's a handy bus route nearby and all of the necessary utility services are available. It would certainly give us a healthy profit while also being a benefit to society.

Monday, 8 June 2020

The Orchard is on Hold

Given the Covid-19 Lockdown regulations and the need for our own protective self-isolation we've not put much time into maintaining the orchard over the past few months.

We did manage to undertake a brief visit and found a lot of damage to the fruit and nut trees. Over-winter floods and late spring frosts have wreaked extensive damage. I also noticed some "die-back" disease in some of the Ash trees.  While we've not abandoned the project, it is almost like we'll have to start again from the beginning. 

Sunday, 1 March 2020

One more tree

We finally managed to get on the Orchard today, though the ground was still a bit boggy after the floods. We had a bare roots Egremont Russet apple tree to plant. Currently it is a single whip about three years old grafted on to another root stock. The soil was pretty sticky, but after some work we planted it, though I forgot to install a support post. We already have one Egremont in the orchard, but I couldn't resist adding another, I love the flavour of those apples. This was probably the last weekend this Spring that we could safely plant a bare roots fruit tree.

As our dogs enjoyed charging around, and finding muddy puddles, my wife pruned the other fruit tree.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Winter trim of the Willow Grove in Turnditch Orchard

Each year around November, we trim the willow grove in the orchard. In 2019 we were affected by the flooding in Derbyshire, so we had to postpone the trimming until January 2020. The job takes about two hours to trim approximately 70 willow stools (coppiced about chest high) to remove the year's growth. the thicker "wands" grow to 2 - 3 metres in length. We planted the willow to help dry a wet patch of the orchard where a historic drain route was in place before the nearby railway bridge embankment was built. We also use the wood to form willow spiling to reinforce the river bank. The salix viminalis strain grows too fast/thick to be of much use in basketry. We trim it each year to ensure we get single shaft wands with very little branching.  ach year we give cuttings away free to people who want to grow their own willow. It is very easy to propagate, just poke a willow wand/branch about 20cm in the ground and leave it alone until it grows too big. It thrives best in an unshaded location. The roots are highly tolerant of waterlogged ground.

The willow grove is well shaded and cool in the hot summer months. The plant is friendly to wildlife and insects. On the riverbank the roots of the spiled willow help to bind the soil together and reduce bank erosion.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

More orchard videos to come

We've not done much work on the orchard recently. This is down to fitness/injury issues, but we hope to spend more time in 2020 in the orchard. There's no shortage of tasks to undertake.  During our "layoff" we've not been idle. One of the things, with low physical demands, we've done is practising how to make and publish videos online.  Expect to see some more videos soon relating to our work in the orchard. For example: Trimming the Willow.

Meanwhile, here's some of the videoes we've prepared in nearby Belper:

A walk down William Street; on youtube  and also on vimeo (no adverts).

A walk up Long Row; on youtube and also on vimeo (no adverts).

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Watering the trees

Yesterday, in the heat of the afternoon, a volunteer and I were out watering the fruit trees. We served each tree with four buckets full of river water. That's roughly 16 gallons per tree. We'd had heavy overnight rain and thunder storms, but the ground was dry already.  Today is the hottest day of the year, about 34 deg C., and the trees are looking happier.  It was worth the sweat to carry the buckets around the orchard.  We did have the assistance of a petrol powered water pump to lift the water from the river.

Monday, 27 May 2019

It's that lamb time of the year.

I visited the Turnditch Orchard yesterday to find lambs grazing on our grass and fruit trees. I don't mind them eating grass, but their munching the lower branches of the fruit trees causes a lot of long lasting damage. At least five trees and a section of new hedge have suffered damage by the lambs. The lambs come from the adjoining field. They are now big enough to graze away from their mums, but small enough to be able to get through any gaps. Last year we had no invasions having fixed all the fences.
New growth on apple tree damaged by sheep
Sheep damaged apple tree.
This year the lambs gained access through the field gate. It is a metal gate designed for cattle, but not small livestock. It has equal sized gaps across the gate and lambs easily wriggle through the gaps. A sheep gate has narrower gaps toward the base. Our own gate at the roadside is a sheep gate, otherwise those lambs might have been found wandering on the Ashbourne Road (A517). Our neighbour farmer had recognised this some years ago and had wired an old plank at the base of the gate to stop lambs wriggling through the gaps. The people using the public footpath like having a large gap at the foot of the gate to allow their dogs to pass through the gate. At some point, the plank wired to the gate has "disappeared", thus allowing the lambs to gain access to the orchard.  We had provided a "dog gate" which allowed access for dogs when the plank had been in place, but it requires 10 seconds of extra effort.

Dog gate installed between the lamb field and the orchard.

Dog gate, today, showing no sign of use

So now I've had to wire a section of stock fence to the gate to stop all animals from wriggling through the gate. The dog gate remains available, though I know the farmer isn't too keen on having dogs in a field where there are lambs. Strictly speaking, we do not have to provide access for dogs on a public footpath, just humans have a right of way on foot, but so long as no damage arises it is not a problem for us. The stiles remain for the walkers.

Gate, wired with stock fence