AROUND THE COTTAGE:
There are 3 dwarf apples trees [ Granny Smith, Sunset & Laxton Superb] and a small Bay tree in the herb garden; a fan-trained Early Moorpark Apricot against the south-facing wall of the cottage ; a fan-trained Doyenne du Comice pear against the east facing wall of the woodshed and nearby a large quince tree [variety unknown].
Adjacent to the flower garden is the main vegetable garden, protected from the wind which can whistle up the valley by native hedges and surrounded by post & rail fencing up which I’m growing a fan-trained Ashmead Kernel apple. Surrounding the central vegetable bed are eight step-over apples [ Catshead, Cevaal, Red Falstaff, May Queen & Blenheim]
The Bee Orchard adjoins the vegetable garden and yields plums, damsons, pears , eating & cooking apples & medlars.
See the large scale map which lists the varieties.
A friend & I currently have a total of 6 hives situated here so that I can check on them daily when I go to feed the poultry. We harvest the honey by taking the laden frames into the cold store where we can extract, filter & bottle it, safe from the justifiably irritated bees. I separate out the beeswax using a steam wax-extractor and give it to anyone prepared to make soap or furniture polish [ using turpentine and lavender oil] and give me some of it. I have a lot of antique furniture in this antique cottage & bought beeswax polish is expensive!
Many years ago, I sowed the Bee Orchard with a wildflower mix containing cowslips and these have flourished ever since. After they had set seed each year, we used to have to cut it several times, removing the cut grass each time. Now we only have to cut it once with the tractor & topper and then aftermath graze as needed with Shropshire sheep to keep the grass short. This works fairly well but we do have to put hurdles around the bee hives to protect them from the sheep and vice versa and no sheep can be trusted not to rear up against apple trees when there are apples to be stolen !
The Nut Orchard is strongly fenced to provide a large enclosure for the hens, safe from foxes & badgers.
It contains a two small poultry houses & a pool.
There are enough hen eggs for my needs & for much of the year there is a surplus to give to friends & neighbours.
It is mainly planted with cob-nuts – see large scale map for the varieties- while other trees include cherries; a mulberry ; a Conference pear tree; a couple of apple trees [ variety unknown] and an apricot.
If grey squirrels were not shot & trapped, I would get no cob-nuts – or walnuts from the cider orchard either.
The birds used to eat most of the cultivated cherries so I stopped bothering to prune them and tried growing dwarf cherry trees in one of the fruit cages. But, like most stone fruit, cherries seldom tolerate hard pruning and after the dwarf ones grew big enough to need this they never did well, so I removed them. Fortunately by that time the large wild cherry trees in the wood were starting to produce enough small but tasty cherries for me and the birds and more recently the neglected cultivated cherries have started to do the same. The message seems to be that one should not prune cherry trees! I’ve always had plenty of Morello cherries – the sour variety used for cooking – as the birds appear not to like sour cherries!
Like the bee orchard, grazing with Shropshire sheep seems to be saving me a lot of work cutting the grass.
I produce small quantities of apple juice & cider using an electrically-powered Centrifugal mill crusher & a hand-operated Vigo cylinder press and would like to expand production with the aid of working parties. I tried making perry one year but it tasted so strongly of tannin as to be undrinkable.
In the cold store are very useful vermin-proof racks, mainly for apples but I also store quinces and pears there. The thick-skinned pumpkins & spaghetti marrows store all right on top of these racks.
I also have an electrical pasteuriser for the apple juice. This can also be used as a tea-urn or to mull cider or wine, which is useful for refreshing the working parties!
I am establishing Comfrey under some of the fruit trees & use horse muck both solid & dissolved in water as a liquid feed.