The end of March is within sight and all around there is evidence of  Nature waking after the ‘not so bad after all’ winter period’ which culminated with some particularly feisty equinoxal gales.

The unusually warm stretch  late in February, which I enjoyed part of near Bonn,  does not seem to have accelerated bud development generally.  In my opinion the dry land had a braking effect on root activity – yes, the sub soil here really is dry . Since then a succession of ‘Lows’ released only meagre amounts of precipitation here so we continue to have concerns for soil moisture.

Bumble bees are now more common and, already, moths are appearing on the windows in the evening. A colony of newly hatched Vapoura larvae have been found this week, fortuneately before they had ‘fled their nest’ to wreak havoc on emerging apple leaves.

Bud break on everything here is in line with our ‘average’ for very many years. Every thing will now speed up with longer daylight hours, warmer temperatures, and we hope, some ‘meaningful’ rain. By Easter some early apple blossom will be showing and perhaps temperatures will be warm enough for  some insect activity.

A season for OPTIMISM!


The dry January experienced here in Essex has left us short of ground water, the water table being very low for the time of year, as indicated by the measley one metre of water sitting at the bottom of what should be a brimful 3.5 metre well here.

February has brought chill, a smudging of snow, considerable winds and now, as we enter the final ten days this strategically placed anticyclone can be expected to block any chance of the meaningful, persistent rain for a long time ahead.

Anticylones are invariably associated with sunny and warmer days. Lady birds which had been hiding in the crevices of our trees, have responded to the temperatures and are roaming, foraging. Already a Common Lizard has been sighted on an apple tree trunk.

Yes, the Vranja Quince buds are definitely on the move.

Enjoy the school half term holiday, but remember, unseasonably good weather now can leave us growers with some furrowed brows for the rest of the year!

Not too cold for pruning, but persistent chill enough to deter any early movement. Rainfall has been on the low side, there is plenty of time to make up during the next six weeks. Judging by the gnawings on the lying prunings, the rabbits and mice consider the wood to be turgid enough for their teeth. (Some years ago the prunings were left, untouched which indicated the trees were struggling during a dry winter) – not so good for bulking fruit buds.

It looks like a similar weather pattern as we lead into February – no complaints! We should bear in mind folklore – ‘February fill dyke!

How do we measure winter in our minds?

The sight of  all clad in lovely white snow, hoar frost adorning the trees and hedges , a raw nagging Easterly from the Urals or a couple of straight weeks with a good bone in the ground day and night? The latter two need to be endured but are certainly the more beneficial in shutting down perrenial beings like fruit trees.

Usually the first signs of Spring not being so far off,  here, are the Vranja Quince buds just beginning to break , preferably during the first week of March, hopefully not before. I am surprised to see the brilliant white blossoms just appearing on some white violets before the end of December. To date, not so many Fieldfares have been sighted.

We have accepted some really useful rainfall during December, stashed away underfoot for future use.

2018 has presented some challenges from which we have learned of new dodges for  future consideration.  Unfortuneately some disappointments  too, as our range of apple varieties, overall volume and length of season  all fell short of the norm. Our apologies to those of you  who missed out.

However the Winter turns out during the next two months, the growing calendar develops day on day. For us here, at Crapes, we will be quite happy to keep our two pullovers on until the middle of April.  The need  to cast clouts at the beginning of March for a few days , like last Spring , sets everything out of balance for months to come.

Those of you reading this  from Poland, France, Germany, Michigan and elsewhere, it is always good to see on screen your national Flag pop up.

Best wishes for 2019 – hope that you are enjoying your ‘Winter’!



Yes, much earlier than usual , our apples have reached the end of their natural lifespan for this season.

The Medlars have bletted completely (six weeks earlier than is usual) and the only method of  distributing them in our packs is  by using egg trays. The chance of this is also limited as they become truly squishy!

We wait , with anticipation, on the weather pattern for next season, but we need to adjust to the fact that the traditional apples which have been grown here for decades are gradually showing the signs of not tolerating ‘modern weather’. The 2017 and 2018 seasons are proof of this.

It seems that the maturity of everything, Medlar, included, is in fast forward mode. Our few Sturmer Pippin have already been picked – three weeks earlier than the  usual mid November cold job. They are not as sharp as is usual for the time of year. Just D’arcy Spice to glean,  after November 5th traditionally.

Our apple stocks  have run down significantly to a degree that we are referring enquirers to other local orchards nearer the coast in the hope that they will find the varieties hoped for.

Please note that if you are visiting the farm , approaching from Marks Tey railway Station, the small bridge over the Roman River between the station and Aldham is to be replaced. The road will be closed as from November 5th – for 4 months!! Approach may be made via Gt Tey through the lanes, or via Eight Ash Green.

September has been a month of constantly changing weather conditions. We always have a breezy few days towards the middle of the month, hot sun for picking under, not unusual either. Less common is for frost here before the end of the month. This last week  has been characterised by cold mornings with a tally of four white  early starts!

As we have picked so the tell – tell signs of a frost during blossom have been all too apparent, showing as scars on the fruit – like these Sunset and some areas of the orchard with rather empty trees. Looks like an early leaf drop is to be expected.

Following the first Autumn frost, it is advisable to gather medlars before the next gale.

That will leave us with just a few Sturmer Pippin to pick early in November

All in all not quite the crop we would have preferred to see overall. Probably the quince have seen the most satisfying  result of anything tree – borne here this year.

On the bright side Colchestrians are enjoying their Friday boxes of vegetables – with just a few apples. Onions and beetroot being popular both locally and in  companion packs sent further afield with fruit – Derbyshire, Inverness, Norfolk. If we have any left they can travel anywhere, as with Medlar and the remaining Quince.

These were survivors – many weren’t so lucky.P_20180927_083904(1).jpg