Gradually the season is returning to a more usual timing, with still, misty mornings – conditions ideal for overnight roosting small birds to take a peck from a nearby fruit.

The reason for this post is to inform readers that our Quince crop is now all spoken for . There are fewer of these than usual this year.

Also we are unable to accept any further orders for Medlars – there are many fewer than usual – sorry!

Seen any Wasps around yet? Not a sign of them here to date. As carnivores, they do have their contribution to make in the form of caterpillar control, especially both Codling and various Tortix, which are accosted within holes in the fruit. Each female caterpillar consumed now represents approximately 300 fewer eggs being laid on the trees during late Spring 2022.

Bumble Bees have taken up residence under several buildings here and have been active in numbers since mid May.

Seen any working combine harvesters around recently? You won’t with this damp weather. Usually the bulk of the local wheat harvest is over once Discovery apples are ready here. Like the fruit, cereals are delayed by the weather pattern of recent months.

Any August sunshine has been a premium in these parts. Occassionally a few hours of apple sweetening warmth have broken the norm. With this cool, the apples are colouring well – even the late picked varieties – they remain tight on and their pips within pure white. Some tentative tasting has not had me reaching for a hod yet!

Our Earwig friends are compensating well for the lack of Wasps. I have observed them in holes after caterpillars, also very young offspring crawling around within the fruit trees – best spotted while dew is still on the trees first thing.

At least dew is a sign of a sunny day ahead – looks like a patient wait until the new school year before this weather improves

Just need to excercise patience in the meantime!

Well, we survived the heavy down pours of July. Actually, we missed most of them and some serious hail damage which caught the North West of Essex just ten miles from here. We have also been spared the higher temperatures felt further west.

Cool nights are contributing to fruit colour on apples but not accelerating their ripening. Dessert apples are late – by at least ten days on our long term average, so are plums. One of the latest starts to a season that I remember.

Determining the ripeness of apples can either be achieved by high powered science and computer programming, or by examining the fruit both externally and internally using a knife, eyes and finishing off with tastebuds. I opt for the latter which has stood me in good stead throughout my involvement with apples and serves my requirements well.

Just before I expect a variety to be ready to pick a typical, coloured fruit, which is cracked, or even maggoty, is selected from the tree, ( do not use windfalls for this excercise). A damaged fruit will ripen more quickly. One can expect to find that the pips may be browning on cutting open. If they aren’t , then the final tasting test will confirm that a repeat of this process is needed again, a few days later. If the sampling on a Saturday afternoon proves acceptable then the ripe, perfect apples can be expected to be satisfactory the following Tuesday or Wednesday.

Stomachs beware of alluringly red apples with white pips!

Our Medlars, most unusually, have set very few which have already been sold, (once, at least!).

The rainy start to July is evidenced by the well on the premises being unusually high for mid summer – less than one metre to the top. This has been a bit inconvenient whilst trenching in an upgraded (and compliant now!) water system for vegetable watering.

The delayed maturity of all crops is ongoing, so a late season still predicted for everything. Volumes are low so supplies will be limited and doubtless their availability short lived.

Those of you already on our mailing list will have begun to hear from us during this week.

We will probably start to have some very early apples – cookers and eaters at the farm early in August. Saturday is the best day to visit for produce – apples etc.

So much for some meaningful decent weather during the mid to late apple blossom period. Instead a typical, English, deterioration in temperatures accompanied by relentless rainfall and winds. For those who are about at the crack of dawn you may have seen clear skies – some frosty temperatures recorded in this area of Essex – 5th, 6th and 7th May within a two metre band above ground level – most of the apple blossom was within this band! This after the frostiest April for 60 years.

The other point to consider is, that as the sun rises, thawing frost on it’s way, the tops of the tress on the east side are warmed first. the more rapid the thaw, the greater the tissue damage within the flower/fruitlet. The sharper the frost the less likely much will survive. The days of polluting the neighbourhood by burning wax candles, old oil or straw bales in an attempt to increase the temperatures within the orchard rows are an activity definitely pushed into the past. Overhead water sprinkling through such nights is very effective but one needs a good supply of water , especially for a frosty week, and good drains. On the continent fruit growing areas throughout both France and Italy, especially, have suffered similarly.

During the last fifteen years former Wheat and Oilseed Rape land, adjacent to Crapes, has been sold in parcels to local residents who have planted swathes of deciduous trees in blocks and wide strips. Now that these have matured, the flow of air has been interrupted/diverted somewhat from the free drainage available in the past.

There will be some apples, though after mid September any later varieties are looking very thin indeed at present. The season is running late. on the plus side we have received more than enough rainfall for both May , and now, by the look of things, June also – at the cost of needing extra layers again!

Sure enough the Sturmer Pippin blossom appeared, in volume, during the first week of May – significantly later than usual. The predicted weather for this coming second week of the month shows an absence of frost incidence in this area, also some respectable daytime temperatures for both working bees and , importantly, pollen tube growth within any flowers that they visit. An important week ahead as it looks likely that many varieties will be blooming together and so a good overlap of pollination can be anticipated.

Some rainfall has occurred here though we missed a good dose by just half a mile last week. Any will be welcomed from now on.

A long wait until Derby Day and even then the full result of this late blossoming may not be revealing clearly.

There is still time for damaging frosts at the end of this month!

April 2021 is proving to be quite chilly, let alone lacking in precipitation. Regular sharp frosts have been a concern. Lack of rainfall can be accepted for now as soil moisture not so far down is holding well – in the fruit tree rooting zone.

The good news, at the moment, is that the apple trees are not blooming anywhere on the orchard – yet. Some ‘pink buds’ are now showing on odd trees. Unusually, apple blossom looks to be expected no earlier than our conventional average , possibly a day or two later. This is in marked contrast to some recent Aprils’ when much of the apple blossom has been through its peak by the end of the month.

There is no room for complacency, especially for the next four weeks. It is sobering to read of severe frosts in the fruit growing areas of Italy, France and Germany causing much damage last week to blossoms and fruits.

Conventional average full bloom date for Cox at Crapes is 5th May with Sturmer Pippin about a week before (looking unlikely this morning)

22nd April 2021.

March has passed yielding all manner of weathe, but more noticeable this year compared to several previous recently, temperatures have generally settled on the cool side. Plenty of wind has helped the land to slowly dry. As a result any fruit blossom is not showing on the early side – just Gooseberries and a few Plum varieties now showing bloom.

Ladybirds are noticeable for their considerable numbers. It is good to see more Bumble Bees checking out their patches and requiring release through windows. They have not been so numerous around here during the last two years.

A chilly Easter ahead for Essex and rain to follow. Hopefully we won’t be subjected to a totally dry, frost ridden May this year.

I omitted to mention an observation made after the snowy week earlier on. The rain gauge here is a plastic model which often sports some green discolouration. While snow and ice were contained I waited for a thaw before taking a reading – over a week in effect. The lower part of the vessel showed absolutely shiny clean – just shows how the precipitation form had collected atmospheric pollution during its fall.

The ancient Dutch Light structure which has, and still serves well here since being moved here in 1997 is to be accompanied by more protected growing area, particularly for autumn and winter salad. Colcestrians really enjoy their geens and any leaves!

In spite of some penetratingly cold winds , here in Essex mid month, February draws to a close not just with arrays of Snowdrops locally, but also clear evidence of buds bursting on our Quince trees. Some respite from seemingly incessant rains earlier in the winter has enabled the water table to lower from being worryingly visible amongst the trees late in January to quietening ditch flows.

The tree roots will be responding to the increases in temperature now. It is heartening to see that our earthworm population now consider it suitable to come up for air leaving abundant evidence of their burrowing, everywhere, in turn allowing the ingress of oxygen into the soil. Root systems need fresh air just as we do! Next we will see molehills erupting.

Some efforts have been made to maximise the drainage of cold air during blossom time, especially. The lowering of a length of hedge along the roadside to our north, illustrated the range of small birds residing in and around the orchard as evidenced by the remains of preloved nests of various construction. This is the third time in over thirty years that it has been reduced to a base of 2m. A sheltered orchard at blossom time, particularly, helps to create a micro climate raising the temperature to encourage insect activity and the speedier pollen tube growth within flowers. Too dense a hedge or boundary interferes with air movements. In our situation here, two plantations of trees established on former neighbouring arable land twenty years ago are now, just that , dense enough to create barriers to the original natural air flows the orchard used to benefit from.

A local passer by also informs me of a pair of Barn Owls regularly hunting up and down the rows visible from her window – at dusk. Being grass there are many mice and voles. They had some relief during the recent week of snow cover.

We look forward to continuing as usual with our range of apples available by courier delivery from August. Our mailing list is open to newcomers!

Our Friday deliveries of produce around Colchester will soon be up and running again, to existing customers only to begin with, as we build up volumes of early vegetables and leaf.

Generally the way forward is more optimistic now, provided that we focus on the science of COMMON SENSE!

We are off to a good start with another month of this winter having us reach for an extra layer to keep warm and the annoyance of damp socks when the abundant water finds a way though failing footwear. Excellent for chilling fruit buds prior to the tree sap beginning to rise. Not so great to have volumes of water which, will in its own time, drain away. Our local River Colne, and also The Roman River are both in a considerable spate.

Looking ahead to next month, February, the main ask is for modest temperatures, reduced rainfall and plenty of late winter sunshine to dry the land (not too much!).

We have paused vegetable deliveries around Colchester until early March. You have caught up with the available supply for the moment!