Friday, 5 September 2014

Not the Best Orchard Year Ever, Then...

A "Katy" apple - just the one!
22 Trees and nowhere near that many apples, pears, plums and what-not. 2014 has not been a good year at all for our top fruit or stone fruit. We are not unduly concerned about this -there are very young trees in a very new orchard and fruit trees are definitely in the 'long term' category of projects. We had a brilliant year for blossom and I published plenty of very pretty pictures on this blog in the Spring. We then even seemed to set a lot of fruit - prior to the 'June Drop' I could have taken pictures of flower trusses resplendent with tiny potential pears and cherries.

"Golden Hornet" crabs - around a dozen.
Then came the June drop and the heatwave of June followed by some wicked chilly winds through July and the rain in that month and through to August. Each evening, as I exercised the dogs off the leads in the orchard field (dog proof; no vanishing acts!) I could see fewer and fewer fruits - all the cherries and pears seemed to wither 'on the vine' and fall away so that only a few trees have ended up with any fruit at all, and most have just the one or two if they have any. I had great hopes for a single 'Czar' plum turning a nice deep purple but then one day that had gone, stolen by a magpie, maybe.

Buff Orpington chicks at four and a half weeks
So, now it is September and I can probably give you a 'final score' without counting too many chickens. We have 9 apple trees, on which I have one 'Katy' fruit, one 'Red Windsor', 2 'Bramleys' and a 'James Grieves'. I have no fruit on the 'Egremont Russet', none on either 'Braeburn' or the 'Irish Peach'. I have a dozen or so crab apples on a 'Golden Hornet'. I do not have a single cherry despite having 3 trees. From 3 plum/gage trees I had two 'Victoria' plums. I brought those in to Liz, handing her the clean one. I went to cut away the 'wasp damage' at the stalk end of my 50% of the crop and an earwig reversed out of the hole. "Could have been worse;" said Liz, "It might have been half an earwig!"

Goldie's 3 remaining sons. 2 more sold yesterday.
The damson did not even blossom and the mulberry is way too young yet - they grow very slowly and can make very old trees. The quince set 3 fruits but these stalled during the cold winds of July and have not put on any size. A while back I published a picture of an inch long quince. I could take almost the same shot 2 months later. They will presumably just fade and drop off, inch and a half long undeveloped babies. The hazel-nut tree got decapitated by geese within minutes of planting and is now recovering, and the 2 pear trees (a 'Williams' and a 'Conference') I have already described as fruitless.

2 happy pigs snuffle for blackberries dropped among the grass
This little lot is not meant to be a 'moan', just a statement for the record. When someone writes the annals of fruit growing here, 2014 will not be among the good years, but 2015 is yet to come and we hope there will be many more years for these trees.

White cat Pirate camps out on the front doormat
hoping to gain access to the house.
Meanwhile, out in the 'wild' the fruit is looking much more promising, the hedges are laden with a fast-ripening heavy crop of blackberries. We need to get out there with our buckets soon but for now I have been grabbing a few in a small bag from the lanes while walking the dogs and bringing them home to spice up the pigs' lunchtime snack. We are also enjoying a good crop of Autumn fruiting raspberries. And finally, I have some colour break in tomatoes in the poly-tunnel. I feel like I am weeks behind anyone else I talk to.

The kitchen garden has done excellently for salads
and is now starting red beetroot.
I have a huge and heavy crop of plum tomatoes and big beef tomatoes but all of them were hanging onto their chlorophyll and looking like they'd be green tomato chutney at best and a failure at worst. But no, I now have orange and red colours coming on the plum tomato plant at one end of the house and a slight fade towards yellow-green on the beef-tom fruits on other plants. We may yet get some crop and even a glut which I am sure the piggies will enjoy if we cannot cope with it. We currently have a glut of yellow courgettes but the pigs turn their noses up at those. There's no pleasing some folks.

The Ramones on the front lawn.
In other news, Pirate the Cat's adoption of us and our house has moved on a stage; the lad is now staking out the place camped out on the front door mat and trying to nip inside every time we open the front door. He seems oblivious of the bad intentions of the three Westies all being held back on leads whimpering their lust for his blood and intent on his destruction. We are having some fun trying to manage this conflict and coming up with ways where we might be able to let him be the indoor cat he so badly wants to be.

Ginger pigs gleaming in the sunshine.
Liz started to let him come in for a wander while I was 'orcharding' the dogs or walking them down the lane and he likes to wander about but then settle in one of the easy chairs (mine mainly!). He was also allowed a couple of nights over-night in the Living room but we have to lock him in there safe away from the dogs, so he thanked us with a poo on the leather sofa. That was a short lived experiment. He may not even be house trained (why would he be?) but being locked indoors did not help. So now he's allowed in while I'm out with dogs and we are moving his food and bed to the Utility Room; although not really part of the 'indoor' house, it is indoors and has a radiator and a cat-flap. So far so good except that it is still warm, so we leave a window open for Blue (our other cat) and last night Pirate discovered this and was then discovered by Deefer-dog in the wee small hours asleep, once more on my chair. That was a bit exciting for a while, but nobody got injured. It's never boring here, even if it is a bit short on apples and pears.

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