Monday, 29 April 2013

Cherry Blossom

Gratuitous snaps of cherry blossom, not from an orchard, these are ornamental, posted simply because it's that time of year. Oddly although the flowers look completely different from one another in these two photographs they are both from the same tree, a miniature flowering cherry no taller than maybe 3'6".

"A perfect cherry blossom is a rare thing.
You can spend your whole life looking for one, and it will not be a wasted life."
 The Last Samurai

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Record the Day ~ Blossom ~ 28th April 2013

The Bramley apples are in "early pink bud"

while the Ida Red apple trees are ahead by a little being in "pink bud"

it's the plums that are stealing the show, they are in "full blossom."

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Bullfinches in an orchard ~ Pyrrhula pyrrhula

While I'm on the subject of fruit grower's nightmare's I thought I'd just mention the Bullfinch.

This delightful to look at little bird with his pinkish-red breast and cheeks, grey back, black cap and tail, and bright white rump can strike terror into the heart of an orchard owner.

Usually found in pairs they occasionally form flocks of 50 or more birds in Springtime and that's when the trouble starts. A flock of Bullfinches can strip the fruiting buds of a fruit tree at the rate of an acre a day devastating the orchard. Once this was such a huge problem that the birds were trapped but numbers have declined in recent years and a licence would be required now before the Bullfinch could be trapped.

Image: Silversyrpher via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, 26 April 2013

Hail can be a fruit growers nightmare

Well it's been a day of changeable weather, one minute sunshine the next rain, not to mention the brief hail storm.

Hail can be a fruit growers nightmare. Hail can dent a growing apple and even cut the skin, although the cut can heal it heals with russet and can later split there.

No worries today though.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Weasel sighting in the orchard or Pop Goes the Weasel

Despite having a bit of a reputation in some countries for being harbingers of misfortune I've always considered myself extremely lucky when I see a weasel. I find them endlessly entertaining but you have to have a sharp eye they are very quick. I saw one today disappearing under an empty apple bin, he made my day.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.
Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.
Every night when I go out
the monkey’s on the table.
Take a stick and knock it off
Pop goes the weasel.
A penny for a ball of thread
Another for a needle,
That’s the way the money goes,
pop goes the weasel.
All around the cobblers bench
the monkey chased the people;
The donkey thought ’twas all in fun,
pop goes the weasel.

Image: Kevin Law via Wikimedia

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Peacock Butterfly in the orchard ~ Inachis io

I've had a few sightings of the Peacock butterfly (European) this week, it's easily recognisable with those large eye-spots on the wings. The Peacock butterfly will over winter in buildings or trees and is often the first butterfly to appear in early Spring.

Just a quick note about the photograph by Korall via Wikimedia Commons it is a featured picture on Wikimedia Commons and is considered one of the finest images. It has also been elected as picture of the month at Swedish Wikipedia. The election of this picture was done by voting among pictures uploaded and inserted into an article at Swedish Wikipedia during the specific month.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Frost in the Spring is the great enemy of the fruit grower

"When the bud scales begin to move the danger starts. The bud then puts out two tiny leaves which are known by the endearing name of "early mouse ear". At this stage damage can be done at between 7 deg and 5 deg of frost, which is 25 deg and 27 deg F. "Mouse Ear" comes three days later followed by "early green bud", "green bud", "early pink bud", "pink bud" and finally "full bloom". At each stage the susceptibility of the bud to frost gets greater by half a degree Fahrenheit until at full bloom it can be killed by a four hour frost at 30 deg F. From then onwards the susceptibility of the apple decreases by approximately half a degree every three days. The periods during which loss is likely to occur is from late March to the end of May. It is a long time to live on one's nerves."

Extract from The Cuckoo in June: Tales of a Sussex Orchard by David Atkins
ISBN 0-7089-3624-5

The author tells how, in 1954, he abandoned the secure life of a chartered accountant and bought a small apple farm in the Weald of Sussex. With no knowledge of fruit farming, he found himself at a loss in a strange rural worls. He tells, with many an amusing anecdote, how the farm survived drought, frost and hail and for a time prospered.

Monday, 22 April 2013

An Orchard Tea Room Cake Recipe

This cake is delicious.

Having devoured two fat slices I told the lady in the tea room how much I'd enjoyed it, she offered me the recipe. So here it is:

Lined loaf tin
Oven pre-heated 160deg

1 tbs golden syrup
2oz butter
1 oz brown sugar
1 1/2 ozs glace cherries
1 oz sultanas
1 1/2 ozs flaked almonds

6 ozs butter
6 ozs caster sugar
6 ozs self raising flour
3 large eggs
1/2 tps baking powder

That's it, just the recipe, no instructions.

 The lady in the tearoom said, "I don't have to tell you how to make it as well, do I?" to which I replied, "Er, no that's okay, thank you".

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Grading apples

Over half way through April and there are still English apples from the 2012 crop available to purchase though you probably won't find them in the supermarkets, you need to visit local farm shops to find them.

The above photograph shows apples on a grader, they are automatically graded for size but then have to be hand picked before packaging.

Shetland Pony in the Orchard

We've seen pigs in the orchard and now I've spied a Shetland pony though this one wasn't moonwalking, at least not while I was watching!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Pruning fruit trees

The big commercial growers will have completed their apple orchard pruning by now, it's best done between December and early March before the sap rises. But for some small fruit growers, the one man band with just a few acres of apple orchard, it's a case of trying to catch up and fit everything in. It's still not too late to prune your apple trees!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Record the Day ~ 18th April 2013

My last Record the Day was on April 1st  as you can see the warmer weather is doing the trick,
Spring has finally arrived in the orchard.
Bramley apple tree above, 
Plum below.
The previous photograph of plum buds shows just how far things are progressing.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Gnome Management

A tongue in cheek video about gnome management in the garden, rather amusing, but thank goodness we don't have them in the orchard!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A dying orchard

Called in by the potential new owners of several acres of apple orchard to see what can be done 

I'm met by the sorry sight of hundreds of neglected, dying trees, 
wood so dead that branches snap off as you walk through the trees,

boughs thick with lichens and very little sign of new bud,

spiral tree guards that should have been removed long ago
 no longer protecting the trunks from rabbit damage.

A very sorry sight.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Cherry-plum blossom Prunus cerasifera

It was only a few days ago that I was predicting a spurt of growth due to the warmer weather this weekend and lo and behold we have blossom ~ Cherry Plum Blossom

Cherry-plum (Prunus cerasifera) also known as the Myrobalan Plum are some of the first trees to blossom in the orchard. Well actually these particular ones aren't really in the orchard at all they are ancient suckers from the rootstock of long lost plum trees. These have survived as part of a windbreak and have no real commercial value.

You'll sometimes find them in hedgerows, the early fruits are round and go from green to yellow to red, and they taste similar to a plum.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Newborn Labrador Puppies

Our friends at Naughtland Working Labradors have a new litter of puppies, Gin had the puppies on Thursday night and the video was taken using an iPhone on Friday. Enjoy!

The orchard pig and the apple

 Pigs love apples and here is the photographic evidence to prove it

 Lucy the orchard micro pig enjoying an apple

and then asking for another.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Barely budding trees ~ festoons of hanging blossom

 Looking at my previous post, Plum buds, I'm reminded of this extract from Clare Leighton's Four Hedges

"As the month draws on, there is a sudden rush of warmth and in a day or two the garden is a changed world, as in a fairy story where a spell has been suddenly lifted. Barely budding trees thicken with green, the spinach is rampant, and the rhubarb, that a few days back was pale and stubbly, is like an enormous tropical plant. The cherry trees that should have been in bloom for Easter, now burst into festoons of hanging blossoms...."

Four Hedges by Clare Leighton

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Plum buds

The much talked about late Spring is delaying everything in the orchard this year. In other years we have seen plum blossom as early as April, not this year. But the forecast for warmer weather this weekend should give everything a much needed spurt of growth, let's just hope that there won't be anymore late frosts.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Pigs in the orchard

Not all the animals in orchards are of the wild variety, some people choose to keep domesticated animals in orchards. Animals such as this delightful pair of pigs, these two are micro pigs.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The OPAL guide to epiphytic mosses in orchards

The "Moss Man" gave me a copy of "The OPAL guide to epiphytic mosses in orchards in the East of England to help me to learn to identify the orchard mosses myself.

This Lottery funded guide explains what mosses are and how to conduct an orchard survey along with lots of photographs and identification information on the most common epiphytic acrocarpous mosses to be found in orchards.

You can download your own copy here or go to the OPAL website to order a hard copy for yourself.

By the way OPAL stands for The Open Air Laboratories, it was founded in 2007 and aims to inspire a new generation of nature-lovers by getting people to explore, study, enjoy and protect their local environment.

Click to see the list of mosses found by the "Moss Man" on just 10 Bramley Apple Trees

Sunday, 7 April 2013

More foxy goings on in the orchard - or another fox sighting in the orchard

Another wonderful fox sighting today around 4pm this time, it was about 2pm the other day. This time the fox and I were walking toward one another. He/she stopped, waited, watching to see if I would continue, which I did. Then the fox slowly sauntered down the side of the drain, (this is the Fens), popped over the water and up the other side of the drain into the field beyond.
As is so often the case I didn't have a camera with me so the image is courtesy of  Jonnmann Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Catching up with orchard maintenace

The very wet Autumn and Winter made it nigh on impossible to get even small vintage tractors on the land in the Fens until recently so it's especially good to have some dry weather enabling us to get on with much needed orchard work.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Fox in the Orchard

I know there are foxes in the orchard but I rarely see them, just the very occasional glimpse around dusk so today was a rare treat.

It was the rabbit running past me, for once oblivious to the dangers posed by us humans, that alerted me to the fox trotting through the trees. He/she was definitely on a mission known only to themselves. Not hunting just going from one place to another.

It would seem that the rabbit need not have worried, not this time anyway.

Image:Twilightvoron at en.wikipedia

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Land Rover enthusiasts meet at The Orchard Tea Room, Wisbech

So what have Land Rover's got to do with orchards?
 Not much really but I have to confess to being a bit of a Land Rover enthusiast and after all Land Rover's are the traditional choice of vehicle in the farming community.
The point of this post?
Well The Orchard Tea Room, Redmoor Lane, Wisbech, PE14 0RN offers a free cup of tea (with purchase) to all Land Rover drivers when the fledgling Wisbech group meet up there. There's a meet on Saturday morning so if you're in the area pop by and have a chat about Land Rovers and maybe join in with a bit of green laning.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

English eating apples still available to buy in April

You might be surprised to find that, even as late in the season as April, it is still possible to find some English grown apples still available to purchase in farm shops around the country. Apples like these:


 Cameo is one of the best keeping apples and should still be available to purchase throughout the country in April. It is a fairly modern apple, delicious and sweet.


People often say that Jonagold is for sharing. It's a large , tasty, sweet apple.

Royal Gala

Royal Gala is known for its' good keeping qualities and its' pleasant, sweet flavour.

Ida Red

Ida Red is another really good keeper, and a stunning looking red apple, as well as eating it can be used for making apple sauce, cook with the skin on and you'll get a pink tinge to the sauce.


I've mentioned before how lucky I am to have people share their fields of expertise with me, I'm also lucky to have people who are willing to share their delicious family recipes. Here's a seasonal one from Lionel ~


2 Oranges,
1 Kg Prepared Rhubarb,
3 Onions, Skinned and chopped,
900 ml Malt Vinegar,
900 gms Demerara Sugar
450 gms Raisins,
1 tbsp Mustard Seed
1 tbsp Peppercorns
1 tsp Allspice.

Squeeze juice from Oranges and finely shred peel. Place in a large preserving pan with the Rhubard, Onions, Vinegar, Sugar & Raisins. Tie the spices in a piace of muslin, and add ot the ingredients in the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until thick and pulpy - about 1&half hours. Remove bag, pot and cover.

Makes about 3.6 kg, ready in about 3 weeks.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Orchard Mosses

I'm extraordinarily lucky to meet some incredibly knowledgeable people during my orchard work and even luckier that they are willing to share their knowledge with me. Here the "Moss Man" shares the list of different moss species found on just 10 Bramley apple trees:

Here is the list of mosses found in a Fenland orchard. Most of the plants are fairly common; the more interesting ones are hi-lighted in blue. These are mostly Clean Air species which would have been extremely rare up until the Clean Air Acts brought in during the late 1960s. Improving air quality (plus the cessation of spraying trees with Tar Oil) has meant that fruit trees in general have been steadily acquiring more and more interesting species. However, there seems to be differences between different cultivars and their ability to host mosses. This, and the age of the trees, also seems to affect the picture though how all the different factors interact is currently not clear.
Another feature of interest is the variation which may exist between trees (and sometimes even between branches); the Best Bramley had 16 species on it, the worst had only 6 out of the 10 trees sampled.
Amblystegium serpens Creeping Feather-moss
Brachythecium rutabulum Rough-stalked Feather-moss
Bryum capillare Capillary Thread-moss
Ceratodon purpureus Redshank
Cryphaea heteromalla Lateral Cryphaea A Clean Air species
Dicranoweisia cirrata Common Pincushion
Frullania dilatata Dilated Scalewort
Grimmia pulvinata Grey-cushioned Grimmia
Homalothecium sericeum Silky Wall Feather-moss
Hypnum cupressiforme Cypress-leaved Plait-moss
Hypnum resupinatum Supine Plait-moss
Orthotrichum affine Wood Bristle-moss
Orthotrichum diaphanum White-tipped Bristle-moss
Orthotrichum lyellii Lyell's Bristle-moss A Clean Air species
Rhynchostegium confertum Clustered Feather-moss
Syntrichia laevipila Small Hairy Screw-moss
Syntrichia montana Intermediate Screw-moss
Syntrichia papillosa Marble Screw-moss A Clean Air species
Ulota bruchii Bruch's Pincushion A Clean Air species
Ulota phyllantha Frizzled Pincushion A Clean Air species
Zygodon conoideus Lesser Yoke-moss

Monday, 1 April 2013