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 fan-trained trees : two apricots [ a Flavorcot & a Vigama] & two quinces [ a Portugal & a Vranja] and one 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, greengages, 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’ve just very successfully separated out all the beeswax using a recently purchased steam wax-extractor. I plan to make furniture polish as I’ve done before, using turpentine and lavender oil. 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 appears to have worked 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 !
Fort Ducks is strongly fenced to provide a large enclosure for the ducks & hens, safe from foxes & badgers.
It contains a two small poultry houses & a pool for the ducks.
There are enough duck &/or 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 while other trees include cherries; a mulberry ; a new pear tree and an apricot— see large scale map for the varieties.
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.
In spring 2012 I purchased a 0.6 acre meadow which I divided with a fence to form Bess Field & the Allotment Orchard.
As can be seen from the sector map, Bess Field lies on the steep hillside to the west of the cottage. One of my kitchen windows looks straight out on it & for years I have enjoyed the light effects in the late afternoons & evenings, particularly in winter, as I worked at the kitchen sink. If I had planted trees there, my view would have been spoilt & the effect would have been claustrophobic.
The Allotment Orchard is lower down the hillside & slightly further north & planting trees there will not have this effect. Indeed, I wanted trees to screen me from the bungalow next door. But I could not plant woodland , partly because there are some overhead power-lines & partly because my neighbours in the bungalow naturally did not want high trees directly to the south of them, obscuring their sunlight. So a small Orchard seemed to be the answer, see large scale map for Species & Varieties.
Still lower down the hillside is my friend’s allotment and below that my main muck pile. Near this I’ve planted a Merryweather Damson and one big old-fashioned pear tree, a Catillac on Pyrus Communis rootstock. This produced a marvellous crop of cooking pears in 2019 which, unlike most pears, kept for months so I’m hoping this will continue.
Beside the top pool is the Cider Orchard with cider, cooking & crab apples ; perry pears ; walnuts ; quinces & plums – see large scale plan for varieties – and what I hope will one day be a giant Black Worcester pear on Pyrus Communis rootstock .
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.
Above the stable is large loft with 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.