We used to gather our Medlar crop at the beginning of November, particularly promptly following the first frost of the Autumn.

These days other considerations dictate the harvesting of this curious fruit whether they be for annual jelly making, or for enjoying them bletted, at their most squidgy state. Drooled over by some, or a definite ‘turn off’ for many!

Remember the very warm two weeks at the beginning of September, also the volumes of rainfall late in August? That combination has not been the best for apples just approaching their picking. Just as well there are only a few low grade fruits left.

Our Medlars blossomed just after the damaging May frosts. They have benefited from sun and rain up until now. They may well be ready to pick mid October – especially as already this month, by the 7th of October, 80mm has fallen. They are now increasingly vulnerable to stormy winds.

Medlars may be sent out whether they are still hard, or even later, when they are bletted. They could be accompanied in a pack with some late Autumn vegetables. Sadly there are no apples left to supply.

It must be fifty years since so many Field  (Horse) mushrooms popped up around the orchard. Many in the ‘usual’ spots where my father and, earlier still, my grandfather had gathered them for a tasty meal from a long time previously.

Worcester Pearmain were first planted here during the mid 1920’s. We have always grown them and they have always been a mainstay, during difficult weather seasons . This year is different, in so many ways, even  the lack of  of traditional Worcester Pearmain.

August gales certainly sorted things out, over 100mm (4″) rainfall did also but at least it heralded the end of the blistering days at the beginning of the month. There is late caterpillar activity following the high temperatures, evidence of skins splitting after the rain and some bruising from twigs in the gales.

Our Discovery are just finishing. Now just small quantities of some varieties remain for the rest of the Autumn.

If you are looking for apples to order please contact me on tannandrew@gmail.com. I will then give you details of another orchard to approach.

No more orders can be fulfilled with what can be seen on the trees here.

Not particularly welcomed, here at Crapes. With these sustained high temperatures volumes of rainfall are not to be welcomed either. July has passed with some useful, periodic rainfall, some 60mm. This does nothing to replenish the subsoil. An indication is the water level in the 3.6m well here of just 0.6m depth. So we are back to the levels of last September.

Victoria Plums and Discovery apples look to be in for a short window  of availability.  Damsons will be following on their heels.

Vegetables are being kept  growing by judicious watering.

Not many wasps about but earwig numbers are improving!

Cooler nights with  lingering morning mists needed for everything.

 

 

July has seen 45mm rainfall here during the first two weeks – not all at once and without hailstones, also. April , May and June totalled 55mm!

The full picture regarding the distribution of apples here is now clear. Half an acre of trees has a decent yield, the other twelve acres of apples have a good show of leaf with only an odd fruit here and there. Our south facing inclination has not helped us this time but some overgrown hedges and farm buildings have, in places. A re -run of last season with no apples available after November.

On a brighter note, our earwig population is gradually making an appearance, much later this year. In an attempt to encourage them to populate less mature trees some refuges constructed with two flower pots and a bunch of straw  tied within the tree against the trunk, approximately one metre above ground have been in situ for around six weeks. Dismantling one this week it was good to find an earwig and a ladybird inside.

Our deliveries,  of vegetables and what fruit we have available, all grown here, continue around Colchester.

Two eating establishments we supply have just reopened

Cradle C.I.C. North Street Sudbury, and

Nourish, 23, Crouch Street , Colchester.

There will be no apple picking jobs here this season.

 

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