It is some weeks since my report of early promising signs of apples to grow. Annoyingly this should now be amended.

Through the whole of May, no measurable rain fell here, which while concerning was not a total disaster for tree growth. The second week of May saw consecutive nights of low temperatures, and for early risers frozen windscreens. The morning of the 13th being the coldest –  spot on full bloom for both Suntan and Orleans Reinette. Consequently there are very few surviving fruitlets.

The trees carrying the most at the moment are those which blossomed before the late April rains, though a considerable number of fruits  are  now dropping.. Most of the blossom was fully out late April – early May. Cold rain drops inside a freshly opened flower invariably negate its viability. Frost on freshly set flowers likewise leads either to scarring of the fruitlet or  a fruitlet which falls during the next ten days.

Apart from a few russeted fruits, the Plums have survived.

The small shed here is now open for selling produce available – at the moment Broad Beans, Raspberries etc. Please come prepared with small change. Weights, qualities and prices are all calculated with 50ps in mind. Of course, social distancing applies here and just one household at a time in the self service area please. Friday deliveries continue as usual.

As for the June Drop?  This applies mainly to apples. The proportion of fruit which falls during the June/early July period reflects stresses which the tree has endured over several recent years whether it be waterlogging, drought, over cropping, or more recently, a cool pollination period, or varietal characteristic.

In my boyhood thinning Red Ellison was a most tedious task. Some of those trees remain to this day and actually are carrying fruit but they are shedding by themselves, as they did last year. The lightest cropping trees will yield some huge specimens – they stew or bake well , with natural  hint of aniseed.

Squirrels have taken to raiding pear fruitlets. They would not have risked this had my late father in law  spotted them!

 

 

 

 

Much of the blossom has now blown off except for Suntan and Orleans Reinette. So far fairly free from untoward weather events, though immdiately after this rearranged Bank Holiday  weekend a succession of coolish nights are expected into the middle of next week. The end of April saw the only, timely, rainfall here for the month approaching 20mm. The well here still has 1.5m water in depth so an improvement on the last two Springs!

An aerial photograph of the farm just now would reveal an interesting pattern of green. This reflects two cultural challenges.

We are on fine silty loam and very fine silty loam with just a few areas on anything more substantial. Those trees on the very lightest soil have struggled through two dry Springs which the effect of the rainfall of this last Winter has yet to influence the vegetation – a slow start for these areas and not so much blossom which is actually initiated the previous Spring and Summer. There were some areas where the grass failed to make enough growth to justify mowing such was the drought. Older trees, and yes we have several here, on older, more vigorous rootstocks are showing healthier leaves and some fruitlets.

Consistently around the orchard the three rows  nearest to any hedge are virtually devoid of  Winter Moth carterpillars, in particular. Our army of Blue tits and their cousins can be seen at sunrise foraging in the trees, the caterpillars dislike sunlight so are caught as they retreat within the new leaf. The further into the orchard is further for them to transport their haul back to nestlings. It is also more hazardous as we have both Kestrel and Sparrow Hawk  hovering here. Mild Autumns, Winters and Springs are favourable for increased Winter Moth activity.

Just prior to sunrise is a favourite time for our local Buzzard to patrol low over the hedges and plum trees to snatch a roosting pigeon for a meal. Pigeons just love tiny plums (and the blossom buds before).

There are no signs of either Lady birds or Earwigs, just yet.

We remain closed to passing trade at present. Any one collecting vegetables by arrangement will see that a designated area for strictly one person at a time has been organised through the main doors, with apppropiate instructions.

I anticipate that Apple Day events 2020 are unlikely to take place, even here. Allowing two metres in all directions consumes a lot of space – which I don’t have inside here!

For many years I have been present at Copped Hall near Epping for an Apple Day event. Also some apples of different varieties, from here, have been for sale there  Should this event not take place, then any of you who usually visit  may make direct contact for your annual supply.

At the end of this month I will draft out  information for those of you beyond Essex whom we send packs of apples to. I will brood on the draft for a few weeks before releasing details of varieties, pack size , and costs. Our courier is still operating. Packaging will remain the same unless there is a supply difficulty but it will not involve plastic.

The Medlar will soon be flowering!

The early morning of 20th April was heralded by the first hearing of a Cuckoo here for the Spring, some five days earlier than usual. Also, and not so inspiring, the sight of two Roe Deer furtively mooching around. These are more damaging than the Muntjac as they browse the trees much higher up and hop over rabbit proof fencing around the vegetable area, leaving hoof indentations in the insect proof  mesh covering carrots and salad .

Unusually, the weather forecast for the passing into the first week of May is for increasing night time temperatures. April has been very dry, rainfall wise, accentuated by chilly easterly winds and dawn to dusk sunshine – light has been most beneficial for all plants in leaf.  An ideal balance rarely occurs!

Most apple varieties are showing some open flower. Here, the blossom period extends for several weeks which means as the different cultivars overlap there is a good chance of some fertilised flowers. The weather is fair, the flying  insect population is very good just now and it seems that, unlike exceptions in recent Springs, the usual sequence of flowering through the orchard is close to the norm.

It has been very noticeable that Bumble Bees are more numerous this Spring, having emerged quite early. They were noticeable by their abscence at this time last year.

Our Colcheste,r Friday, delivery round is  being maintained. It will be good to introduce some of you leaf eaters to some apples and plums in a few months time!

A reminder that we:

a) Do not buy produce in from other producers for re-sale, and

b) Our produce is not available through other delivery schemes or through other farm     shops.

All eyes on the North Atlantic for some unsettled weather to accompany the expected favourable temperatures. An occassional wet day would not be amiss!

We have all been required to re-adjust our lives during the last month. Meanwhile, day on day, the sun is climbing higher over our hemisphere and below it everything growing  is now bursting with potential.

This year the resident bee colony has been renewed with fresh stock. The newcomers are now busy on flowers of Plum, especially, and a few early Pears.  The Apples look on time to bloom at the end of April into mid May. A succession of Atlantic fed depressions during that time would  help to lower the risk of  damaging early morning frosts. Just depends on the Jetstream.

Recently I have made mention of our delivery round in Colchester on Fridays which is enjoying priority over any sales at the farm gate for now.. At the moment we have just about met demand, but not quite. Apologies to those who have been disappointed. Slowly more volume will be available and then it may be possible to open our small shop here.

Only produce actually grown on these premises is available. The more sun, the better!

We do not supply other farm shops, or, other home delivery veg box schemes.

Those of you further afield have not been forgotten! At the moment the intention is to send out packs of apples during the season. It may be that a few changes to the pack size and/or the details of the delivery process will  be unavoidable. First we need to see some apples! Details of availability will be circulated early in July.

Open those windows, soak up the sun –  and stay healthy!!

 

Sorry, but demand is outstripping our current supply of produce this week.

Realistically, it will be several Saturdays before we have any left from the Friday delivery demand to supply visitors to Crapes, (see previous post).

We are aware that at this time of the year our local customers visit our small farm shop to acquire early produce as it becomes ready, and later for fruit and more vegetables.

Those of you  who have self  isolated on advice,  or chosen to do so, can still access whatever is available  by contacting us by email or checking  Crapes Fruit Farm on Facebook for the list of what is available to choose from, and we will deliver to you.

We have covered this round with our own produce for many years. You are not committed to a weekly delivery, just the Friday when you need stocks.

The list is posted on Wednesday morning of each week.

This list is very likely to offer more of a  range than we will have left for the Saturday here.

At the farm we will open for Saturdays only to begin with, until we have more volumes to harvest. At the moment the Friday round has priority.

As the season progresses I will update you on developments – but they won’t be too complicated!

At the moment I am covering Copford, Rowhedge, Greenstead, Mile End, West Bergholt, Newtown and everywhere within that line. When fruit arrives then the area extends.

Andrew

 

All our fruit trees are gradually breaking out into leaf – a lot greener than this time a year ago. The first Bumble Bees have been  both sighted and heard, droning on  foraging flights.

Sunshine is, at last, dominating our daytimes. Just at the moment we all need plenty of this, and vitamin D.

The last days of February 2019 are now a very distant memory as we  approach March 2020 beneath clouds and a decided chill which is bound to slow the breaking buds on many species. Quince were about two weeks ahead and some apple varieties were showing a little green as the bud scales began to part  early last week, also on the early side.

Rainfall totals this month have not been excessive but each additional 10mm has topped up an already saturated soil so it is possible that some root loss will occur in instances where trees searched deeper for moisture during the Spring drought of last year. Compared with the unfortuneate flooding further west we have nothing but some minor delaying inconvenience to trouble us.

I recently entertained our local Women’s Institute  with an account of life here in Aldham, at Crapes, since February 1922. No longer would forty people from the village be available with their wooden stools to pick black currants as in the 1930s.

There is a misconception that those working in agricultural and horticulture  are ‘low skilled’. We may look muddy and dishevelled but the years of wisdom of the land and growing  learn’t, and in turn passed on to the next generation, don’t come for ‘nothing’.

As a nation we have made a good job of shooting off one foot since the beginning of the year, now the toes on the other seem destined for a slow amputation before the beginning of the next. Attitudes need to change – fast.

The weather is the least of our problems – FOR ONCE!

A step nearer to Spring, though the temperatures of late, and those expected for the next fortnight, here in Essex one might think that the second season of the year is with us. Ideally a cold February is to be preferred with a gradually warming accelerating as the quality and duration of sunlight improve from early March. A repeat of the shirt sleeve weather during the last ten days of February 2019 is not desired.

Our land is at field capacity now. Each time more rain falls , then the drains flow for a few days – a definite improvement on the situation last Winter/Spring.

A close eye will be kept  for signs of bud break on the Quince – hopefully in early March rather than earlier.

Now back to pruning!

We will put the disappointments with apples for the past season well behind us!

Overall our rainfall total for 2019 has been most respectable, coinciding with our accepted average here, thanks to the wet Autumn and particularly so during early December. The old drains laid in the late 1850s have been gushing well! So, not a repeat of the drought conditions of twelve months ago.

The trees are turgid, as indicated by the palatibility of the bark on the  lying prunings, to mice and rabbits. Deer and mice also sampling from higher within some trees.

Some cooler weather will not go amiss , especially through into March. Repeats of  last February’s dry and very warm weeks not needed!

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!