Friday, 29 January 2010
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Thursday, 21 January 2010
Monday, 18 January 2010
This weekend's long awaited thaw has presented us with a golden opportunity for horticultural pursuits. It seems like months since we spent any quality time in the garden, and the little Winter jobs appear to have grown into much larger ones through neglect.
Another job I'd been putting off until warmer weather was the potting-on of the four Dabinett cider apple trees I grafted over last year. Two are destined for pastures new and will be delivered to their new home next week, whilst the other two are awaiting a suitable site for Espalier training in our own garden. I'd made the mistake of planting the four trees all together in a single pot, and whilst the healthy top growth suggested that all was well, things 'down below' told a different story. Unfortunately, the very healthy root growth had become very tangled in the pot. I've managed to separate the trees, but at what cost to the roots only time will tell. I'm reassured by the fact that the trees should be fully dormant at this time of year, and I've seen the way bare-root trees are handled from the Nursery, which is anything but delicately!
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Mike conducts his cidermaking business in splendid rural isolation at Broome Farm near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. The picturesque approach to the farm is via a winding single-track lane, perched above the flood plane of a small tributary to the River Wye. A lovely drive through a quiet valley of pasture and mature cider orchards, even better by foot or cycle from Ross. Not so good when covered in a few inches of snow!
I was worried about this final approach to the farm, but thankfully there had been very little traffic this way and the snow was still powdery rather than icy. So much for the treacherous lane, just the 1-in-4 up to the farm to negotiate. This proved to be a risk too far and I decided to leave the car on the lane. Following some light sampling in the ciderhouse, we delivered the boxes of cider to the car by sturdy wheelbarrow, and I made my escape before the next round of blizzards threatened to snow me in. Come to think of it, I can think of much worse places to be stranded...
The ciders have now been delivered to the Red Lion, a fairly dry Whisky Cask matured cider, and a Medium/Dry blend of Ellis Bitter and Browns Apple. Get them while you can, they're going fast.
Monday, 4 January 2010
Cold it may be, but there's still plenty to look forward to at this time of the cidermaking year. Yes, the basic graft of actually making cider and perry is now over, squeezed into a few short weeks of harvest around October, but no sooner has the Christmas break been put to bed than the New Year brings with it a host of new jobs and events. In many ways this is the most interesting time of the year for us.
A trip to the cider heartland of Herefordshire is imminent, the voracious appetite of the Red Lion regulars demand that we supply more cider. A trip to Ross-on-Wye to visit our friends at Broome Farm will be a real treat, and I can add value to the journey by bringing back a couple of new fermenters. In our haste to press everything we could pick, we managed to fill every available tub, leaving us with nothing to rack the young ciders and perrys into later this month. Talking of which, it will soon be time 'swirl, nose and sip' the young ciders and perrys for the first time since we pressed them. It really doesn't get much more exciting than that I can assure you!
Pruning time in the orchard is not far away, and with it comes another round of Grafting. We're also looking forward to the 2nd National Scion Wood Exchange Day (6th Feb) at Buckingham Nurseries. This unique event, organised by the Midshires Orchard Group, will hopefully provide us with some rare and interesting apple varieties to graft onto the rootstock we have on order.
Christmas may be over for another year, but January brings its own round of festivities. Twelfth Night is the traditional date for Wassailing the orchards, a highly sociable folk custom designed to celebrate the turn of the agricultural year. Wassails can occur at any time from the first weekend of the month through until the 'old' Twelfth Night of the 17th. There is a very successful Wassail at Broome Farm on the 16th, and slightly closer to home there will be a Family Wassail at Stowe Landscape Gardens in Bucks, again organised by the Midshires Orchard Group. We'll have a mini Wassail in our own orchard, a few glasses of cider and warming fire should do the trick.
So plenty of activities to keep us busy, and warm the heart if not the body over the next month or two. Oh, almost forgot, there's a tax return to do before the end of the month. Now there's a thought to chill the bones.
Saturday, 2 January 2010
It also serves as a timely reminder of the importance of keeping a (relatively) untidy garden at this time of year. We've noticed that our garden foragers are back in force, Blackbirds in particular are looking for a bit of easy scrattle to see them through the Winter. It's slim pickings around the Bramleys this year, so Karen has been out scattering Mealworms and cooking up Porridge as a supplement. The last few Williams Pears from John's orchard have gone to the birds too. Every little helps.
Dear Rockingham Forest Cider, I understand from your web page that you use locally grown apples and I wondered what is done with any windfalls or apples that you find are unsuitable for cider? I am a member of the Rutland Water Nature Reserve bird ringing group, and at this time of year we are keen to attract as many migratory thrushes, blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings (that are arriving in large numbers at the moment) to our ringing sites so that we can ring the birds and contribute the data to international scientific projects on migration and demography. One of the ways that we can encourage birds to our ringing sites across the county is to leave windfall apples in the ringing area for a few days before we go to the site. I therefore wondered whether you might have, or know of anyone who may have, windfalls or unusable apples that would otherwise be left to rot that we could have to put down at our ringing sites. We would be happy to come and collect the apples from the ground and take them away at any time convenient to you.