Monday, 8 October 2012

Remaining 2012 markets

Belated details of our remaining markets for 2012 are as follows. These are all Winchester and Fareham Farmer's Markets, details can be Googled if you aren't sure.

Winchester Farmers Market Sunday 14th October 9-2. We will have Orleans Reinette, Kidd's Orange Red, Sunset, Egremont Russet, maybe a few others. We also have some nice Fruitwise Heritage Apples canvas bags which we are selling at £1 each, well below cost as we have a load left. Buy 3kg of apples and we'll give you one free.

Saturday 20th October Winchester Cathedral market 9-3

Sunday 28th October Winchester

Saturday 2nd November Fareham Farmer's Market 9-2

Subnday 11th November Winchester. We should have Sturmer Pippin and Winter King by then. As I wrote (8th October) they are still hanging on the trees.

Sunday 25th Winchester

Saturday 1st December Fareham

Sunday 9th December Winchester

Saturday 22nd December Fareham

Sorry we can't do any juice or cider apples this year. 2012 has been a very difficult year for us with my serious leg injury in June from which I am not quite recovered and with weather so appalling that its effect on agriculture of all kinds from honey to cereal has become a  major news story. We had no plums, no pears, drastically reduced crops of many apples.

We hope for better things and a much better information flow in 2013.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Sad news, no Apple Day event this year

Bumzer! My right leg is in a cast following an Achilles tendon rupture 3 weeks ago. Tripped on a hotel staircase. Regrettably, I will be unable to walk without crutches and very great difficulty until at least October and by then will probably have lost so much calf muscle bulk I'll need another three months physio. So that's me out of action for the rest of this year.

Sorry, we have no option but to cancel the 2012 Apple Day exhibition and sale we usually hold in October at Durley Memorial Hall.

Also, there are no plums or pears this year due to sustained heavy rain on the blossom. In a normal year we'd be preparing for our first markets now, as it is we're debating cancelling our 'summer' holiday due to the prolonged filthy cold windy weather. It was going to be a walking and fishing break, now I can't do either. If we're going to stop indoors looking out the window at the rain, painting and reading, we might as well do it at home and save the drive to Cornwall and back.

When I know what markets we will have any apples for, I'll post a list here. Sorry.

I'm blogging about my injury and recovery on the YouTube channel, I hope to do a charity fundraiser for a third world orthopaedic and trauma charity, the British Palawan Trust to perhaps bring some good out of this.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Orchard update 5th June

We took some time out from the long Jubilee weekend Monday and Tuesday mornings to spray glyphosate (a non toxic, non persistent systemic weedkiller which I call vitamin G) around the bases of the apple trees where the grasses and weeds were knee high. We had mown the grass the last time we were free and the weather was sunny, but no mower gets right to the trunk and this needs to be clear of weeds. Weeds and grass right up to the trunk not only competes with the tree for soil moisture (still scarce despite rain)  and shelters bark nibbling voles but also stops the bark drying out so promotes fungal disease.

While working my way round the orchard with the 15 litre knapsack sprayer I had the chance to get a good look at the fruit set. Too early to tell for some later blooming varieties such as cider variety Dabinett (which is still partly in blossom) but the fruit set seems better than I had feared. The plums are very poor and the pears disastrous, I already knew that (cold wet weather on the blossom, which comes earlier than apples) but most of the apples are set from moderate to superabundant. The Russets have a very light crop and the Ribston Pippin almost non existent, we will just have enough for our exhibition, but the Sunset, Lord Lambourne, Sturmers, Kidd's Orange Red and some others are very good. The Laxton's Epicure seem to have set almost every fruitlet and will require radical thinning. I'll try to do that this weekend.

The annual chafer beetle plague, at it's height 10 days ago, has passed with less damage than we had in the last three years. They bit holes in a lot of fruitlets before they died from the urgent pesticide application Julia and I applied the previous weekend. I posted a video on YouTube to show the true horror of our annual infestation of this extremely destructive pest and to underline the absolute necessity of effective crop protection when facing this kind of threat.

There is also some scab appearing on the leaves, it is worst on the Le Bret cider apples which are very susceptible. We omitted the usual combined fungicide and insecticide pre-blossom spray as the weather was so fine in March. Of course, it then rained for weeks! Wet weather both promotes scab (a fungal disease which likes the wet) and prevents spraying against it. This omission of the pre-blossom spray, often considered the most critical crop protection of the year, now looks like an error of judgment.

I've said more about spraying in this post than I usually do. I know its not a popular subject, and we both hate it, but I'm just trying to be real. Sorry I can't give details of actual preparations used, suffice it to say that Julia and I both have our pesticide application certificates after a course and exam at Spartsholt Agricultural College and obey all relevant regulations including keeping records which the authorities can inspect. The bottom line on spraying and health is that we are living much longer than a few generations ago, 10 years longer on average, and one reason for this whcih nobody disputes is better, fresher fruit, available all year round. The great health benefits of all this fruit would not have been available without pest control. Sorry, that's how it is. We use a lot less than the industry standard, not least as we have to hump and pump it by hand. A commercial tractor pulled spray rig would cost at least 6 years's turnover.

On that slightly sombre note, we have come through several significant challenges in the orchard so far and hope for a great year!

see you.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Hi everyone apple blossom is falling...

Wow, when am I going to stop taking the 'too busy, too tired, too much to do' tablets? In fact I got an estimate on the value of my NHS pension recently and its NEARLY enough to live on given we have no debt, some savings, modest expectations, enough income from my medical lecturing to pay for holidays. But my Protestant work ethic conscience tells me to keep doctoring 'til I drop. I think I need to re-train my conscience before I DO drop! I'll be reflecting on this during a forthcoming holiday.

Anyway, this is actually the first time I've even visited this blog since last autumn, I concentrate on the YouTube channel which is coming up to it's 3 millionth view. APOLOGIES to those who posted here ince then, I will reply to specific enquiries presently.

Blossom on the plums was great, but the frost and heavy rain since then has led to what looks like a small set. Julia also thinks the extreme dryness during blossom may have been an issue too. Dryest sunniest March ever followed by wettest coldest April on record.

'No one so surely pays his debt
As wet to dry, as dry to wet.'

I plan to post a video on the stephenhayesuk Youtube channel about that. Hope everyone's doing OK.

I read aloud an email from a friend who said he had been inspired to plant trees by my videos. this is high praise indeed, it means a lot to get an email of thanks like that. I honestly don't think I'm that brilliant a grower or teacher, more of a storyteller who likes the sound of his own voice, thrives on compliments (let's be honest!?!) and wants to pass the orchard blessing on. Thanks for agreeing that the story of our orchard is worth telling. I will probably continue to mostly tell it on the tube but will try to put sonme still images and notes up here, and of course our 2012 market details when they are clear. It will be mainly Winchester and Fareham Farmer's Markets as usual plus our Apple Day event, will post dates by midsummer.

As Arthur Ransom wrote in 'Rod and Line'

'Damson blossom had fallen and apple blossom was full in the orchard by the river'
see y'all.