Sunday, 9 August 2009

Feeling a bit 'Waspish'

It's rare for things to go entirely smoothly in the orchard, and this season is no exception. The warm, wet weather we're experiencing this Summer has increased the prevalence of Scab on the smaller than average Bramley Apple crop. This being the tallest tree in the orchard, there are also secondary incidences of scab on some of the cider apple trees nearby. A few spots of Scab on the cider fruit isn't too much of a problem, but the chances of getting any big sun-ripened cooking apples for Winter storage seem pretty slim this year.

The village orchard seems to be carrying a lighter crop of cooking apples this year, although the big pear tree has a reasonable crop. I'll be scouring the valley over the next few weeks to assess the fruit for the new season Welland Valley Special Cider which we'd like to make a lot more of if possible. So in general, it's looking like a modest year for apple crops, though a few good sunny days into the Autumn would at least help give 2009 more of a 'Vintage' quality.

Worst of all is the potential of our small grape harvest, which was looking slightly smaller than last year even before something started eating them! The Rockingham Forest Hens can usually be relied on to poke their beaks in where least wanted, but can't take the blame this year as they're fenced off from the grapes. The finger of blame was being pointed in the direction of the local Blackbird population, and I was all set to string up some netting, which is very effective in stopping bird damage, when the identity of the real culprits became clear.

Red wine grapes such as the Regent and Rondo varieties we grow, can sometimes be very susceptible to attack from Wasps, something we haven't experienced before due to the Wasp population taking a bit of a knock this last two Summers. As soon as the grapes start to colour up they become very attractive to a Wasp, and word of the sweet bounty soon gets round in Wasp-ville! I counted maybe a couple of dozen Wasps feasting around the vines today, and I doubt we'll get enough grapes for even a gallon of wine. Is there an effective way of stopping Wasp damage to grapes I wonder? How much more precious our six bottles of Rockingham Forest Red 2008 now seem.

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