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!

Here in Essex we are off to a dingy, muddy and raw start to 2021 and what’s more, we have seen some sharpish frosts. This is great for the fruit trees though not so clever on the fingers trimming leeks!

Judging by the size of foot prints in the mud our local Fallow deer are about, some are quite hefty beasts. A few tiny prints suggests that there are one or two youngsters with them.

Not such good conditions for earwig mothers turning their eggs, usually at ground level, prior to hatching. Too damp and they become mouldy and don’t hatch. Last summer we made up some refuges with two flower pots containing straw, tied about one metre up the trunk of some youngish apple trees, The intention to provide a comfort zone for earwigs – a major controller of caterpillars for us. I dismantled one after six weeks and found several earwigs , and also some ladybirds.

A spell of isolating ahead for many of us in the U.K., just now. Remember, that sunlight is just as important for yourselves as it is for plants, particularly at this time of the year. Think of the earwig’s plight in the damp – make sure of some fresh air breaking through your double glazing and into your lungs!

An early guide as to what might be ahead is often indicated by the buds breaking on our quince trees. This is not a totally unusual observation during the last few days of February. The further into March, the happier I will be!

Happy New Year!

In many respects, nationally, we are a little further forward from  this time last year. 
For some individuals the year has been dominated by illness and tragic loss. Now there is a glimmer of hope that, just maybe, this encompassing threat to our health will eventually  diminish during 2021 – thanks to the universal efforts, by scientists.
Illness aside, as a nation, we are wobbling out of 2020 into a future of fresh challenges and, no doubt, many obstacles – we will see.

This, you will have already noticed, is at variance to my usual commentary.

Each day WordPress kindly show a chart on my screen which illustrates the pattern of activity in statistical form. A highlight for me is the origin of the interest shown. Whether you are tuning in from Finland, Poland, Kenya, Singapore, Germany, from the North or South of the USA, France, Spain or elsewhere, I hope that you feel able to continue! It is unfortunate that my nation chose to follow an ‘independent’ path forward.

The third, and for myself and growers internationally, the most important concern is how the hitherto subtle local changes in seasonal weather have, in recent years, accelerated significantly both in frequency and marked change – often from one end of a week to the other, let alone the number of see sawing temperature and rainfall incidents within a month – any month. As I type, this wet December will bring our annual total for 2020 nudging 690mm.

Of course, it isn’t just the crop making knee jerk reactions constantly, but also the threats to it – insects in particular. A couple of very warm days late in February seem to wake up overwintering forms of flies and moths, particularly if  surface soil temperatures are rising already.
How often do the meteorologists mention the current position of the Jet Stream influencing our present weather event? We mortals will make little influence on the trends of the Jet Stream. What can’t be changed will have to be endured. That in itself might be easier if those of us on the ground had more grasp on the nature of the beast, which we have no alternative but to learn to grow along with.
A complex subject, yes. Another reason to not only fund  science, but to be more diligent at taking heed of it’s findings as they emerge and amending our ways..

You will recall that May 2020 holds the record for phenomenal sunshine hours. Possible, particularly, as here at Crapes we saw no precipitation for the whole month. That indicates few clouds were apparent.  Cloudless skies at night during early May, especially, are associated with damaging frosts. I need not continue.

Just as well we have another, albeit short, string in our bow. We expect to maintain our Friday vegetable deliveries throughout the winter to Colcestrians.

Hopefully by next summer, as a nation, we can all relax, just a little, though the need for crutches will be ongoing, no doubt.

Also, I hope to be reporting on an apple crop at Crapes!

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The Medlars are all sold now.

I have never seen them blett so quickly or so evenly before. They have been sent the length and breadth of the nation – mainly packed in egg trays!

A chilly start to December. Hopefully this seasonal effect will be with us for three months. We don’t want things hotting up in January (weatherwise)!