New Fruit Trees Ordered

After the untimely demise of many of the cherry trees over the last year, we suspect down to the unprecedented and prolonged water-logging of last winter’s soil, we have ordered replacement fruit trees, but have gone for apple trees instead, as those are doing well in our soil. The two plum trees we lost are being replaced by more plums, maybe a daft thing but I do like plums.

The varieties we are going for are all to be in the large orchard quarter (‘large’ as they are all half-standard trees that can be grazed by sheep and/or geese beneath), and are as follows:

Plums (St Julien A rootstock)

Czar – Eater/cooker, dark sweet fruits, great for cooking with when young but a lovely late eater if left on the tree to ripen. An excellent attractant and nectar source for bees, according to the RHS.
Oullins Gage – An eater/cooker that is winter hardy and self-fertile (not that that matters here).

Apples (M111 rootstock)

Coul Blush – Possible Britain’s most northerly apple, from Coul in Ross-shire – a good sauce maker due to its creamy soft flesh.
Lady of Wemyss – a cooker – that’s all I really know!
Orkney – another dark horse – it’s a cooker, some say it’s sweet, it’s a triploid. Hopefully we’ll know more in three year’s time!
Oslin – A dessert apple at least 200 years old, but rumoured to have connections to the monks at Arbroath Abbey (its synonym is Arbroath Pippin). – it may even have come from France earlier than that. Crisp, creamy flesh with a sweet, rich aromatic flavour and a hint of aniseed – I’m looking forward to this one! Other synonyms include Original Apple and Original Pippin, due to its alleged ability to root from cuttings.
White Melrose – Raised by the monks of Melrose Abbey in Roxburgh, at least as far back as 1831. Very large and can be used for eating or cooking. Unusual in that it has no pips!

The apples are all Scottish varieties, so should in theory be able to cope with our often cold and frosty springs.

Own-Grafted Apple Trees

We also have apple trees to replace the lost cherry trees in the small orchard, all on MM106 rootstock. These will mostly be our local Newton Wonder variety, of which we grafted 10 last winter. But we will also have two unusual red-fleshed apples from Nigel Deacon, one of the most impressive apple experts I have ever met – a true walking knowledge base. One of these trees is Pendragon, from Cornwall, discovered by James Evans around 1982. The second, a Breunsdorfer, has an interesting story attached to it. It’s an East German variety, almost lost when the orchards it was being grown within were bulldozed to make way for an open-cast mine. Before the bulldozers moved in, a lady visiting the location took an apple home and planted the seeds. Only one seedling produced apples true to type, the lady contacted Nigel Deacon who put her in touch with a friend in Germany who grafted some scions from her tree. The tree was re-grafted and there are now several trees in existence, one of which is at Merrybower in Derbyshire. It’s a seriously nice thought that it’s being given a second chance to survive.

Another addition to the small orchard will be:

Lamb’s Seedling – an old Derbyshire dual-purpose variety.

Update – New Merrybower Plan Drawing

Acre Field 2013-10As things get a bit busier here, with more animals having arrived, winter setting  in, and a bit more land being given over to the growing of things, it was time to make a new acre field layout. On it there are some indications of future events (bees, raised herb garden, paths), but for me the most important is the movement of the various animals throughout the year. Next year will hopefully see us begin the task of breeding our Pilgrim Geese, large Light Sussex pure breed and bantam Light Sussex pure breed. This means clean ground, and careful rotation of animals. There are also the three call ducks to fit in somewhere!

To this end we are removing some fencing, adding more poultry-proof fencing (note: bantams and ducks laugh in the face of sheep-netting, just before they pop right on through it) and adding some smaller gates to make it easier to move to the acre field when the ground is wet. There is also the plan for a new path to the main patch, though unfortunately this won’t happen until the new year, so one more year of mud is forecast. Then there is the need to bring the animals as close to the cottage as possible, making feeding and watering an easier chore, but also making it easier to keep an eye on them. I think we may have cracked the barebones of a plan, but no doubt there will be tweaking. In theory we will have enough space to breed two pairs of geese, the large and bantam flocks, and keep most of them near in winter. Plus the various pieces of ground will get a break between grazing.

We also keep a record sheet of the trees planted in the orchard, and I’m going to now publish this on the website, to make it easier for me when I’m down the patch and can’t remember which is which! To have a look at both of these documents, visit the new page on the website – you can see the link at the top of the page, or click here!