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)!

Yes, you have read correctly, just a few very well bletted Medlars left – a delicacy for only the few enthusiasts.

The speed at which the Medlars have softened is a reflection on the season as a whole. The few apples we did have exhibited a similar tendency to mature weeks ahead of usual.

For those of you included in our delivery round, rest assurred we have vegetables to supply through the winter. It is possible to make up a pack of vegetables (instead of apples) to send further afield. Simply log into Crapes Fruit Farm on Facebook at midday on Tuesdays to see what is on offer for either mode.

Please note that we do not supply the wholesale trade or other farm shops.

The orchard needs three months of proper winter weather!

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.