We hosted the Canterbury Tree Croppers for a stroll around our fruit and forest plantings. Not bad, 15 people other than committee members. There’s not a lot to see in early spring but I got to talk about some of the learning curve. How I’d planted pears at the bottom of the hill, knowing that they grow tall and it would be more sheltered in our gale swept possie. What I hadn’t realised is that pears flower early, as early as apricots, so planting them in a frosty hollow was not ideal. How I’d correctly planted apricots and peaches at the top of the short slope where frost would be minimised but hadn’t realised that the Black Boy peach and April White (April there’s a clue!) ripen in autumn so planting them in the lee of the Norwest shelter, where it’s shaded 8 months of the year, wasn’t the best. How apricots just don’t like it here because somewhere between fruit set and summer there is a frost that kills the fruit and damages the shoots letting blast in.
I talked about how I’d deep ripped in two directions and planted trees where the rip lines crossed, putting the trees in a triangular pattern 6m apart in any direction. And I talked about how birds made it impossible to get any fruit without netting the trees. Probably because we have the only fruit of consequence for miles. I’d got apple scion wood from a friend with a collection of organic apple varieties and grafted them onto 793 rootstock. 793 has 80% vigour but more importantly performs well on heavy clay soils. I wanted that vigour to get a good root system as we just don’t have enough water to irrigate.
There was quite a hubbub of chatter over lunch, always a good sign, and I rounded that off by talking about how we’d planted the 5 varieties of cherries by the house on mounds for drainage and if we get the nets up early enough have cherries from late November through to late January a real Xmas bonus. If I was allowed only one fruit tree it would be a cherry, probably Rayonier (white fleshed) as it is early but fruiting at Xmas and after that red and black cherries are much cheaper to buy.
We looped through the amenity trees past an experiment, tapping birch for their sap/water. It’s interesting and I’ve found that the lateral tube I had to hand is too stiff to get a good seal in the hole drilled in the trunk, letting a lot of the sap dribble down the tree. Best run was 8 litres on the day of the visit
. There’s plenty on the internet about it, if you wanted to render it down to syrup it takes 100 litres to get 1 litre of syrup, or so they say. The sugars are mostly fructose which has a lower burn temperature than sucrose. Sucrose is the main sugar in maple sap which only needs 40 litres to make a litre of maple syrup. It seems to keep a couple of weeks in the fridge and this year we’ll just use it as mineral water, a change from the treated tap water from the county Ashley Scheme. Surplus is going in the freezer and I’ve cooked up some to go in preserving jars.
In the afternoon we raced around through the plantation trees, looked at my chainsaw milling efforts and I demonstrated the Timbersaws treestep finishing with a walk through the beech/oak block, which is a mess but one person commented how they’d missed walking through beech woods.