Tag Archives: apples

Please stop….

I just want the garden to stop for a bit while I catch ip with it. Please… whimper…

First, the apples. Oh my lordy, the apples. Apples to the right of them, apples to the left of them, into the valley of apples rode the six hundred … well, me and P with a load of carrier bags. We’ve had heavy apple years, we’ve had light apple years. This year we didn’t have a June drop, more of an August avalanche. Despite that, I have given away 22, yup, twenty-two, completely full, handle-stretchingly full, enormous carrier bags of these,


and have made over twenty jars of chutney, and have filled the downstairs freezer with purée. AND THERE’S THE OTHER HALF OF THE TREE TO PICK.

Incidentally, I have zero idea what this tree is. They are sharpish eaters, sweetish cookers, and mature really quickly once picked. They don’t keep brilliantly, which is a shame considering I have about 4,567,000 tons.

(That is, of course, not accounting for the fact that the meadow beneath this tree was so covered with rotting and freshly fallen apples that we had to scrape them off with spades before strimming the meadow, and that the jackdaws have had so many apples that they are about as fat as dodos and can barely lift off when you go into the garden and shout at them. I swear I can hear them burping.)

And there are two other trees. The ancient cox and the second mystery tree which is a lovely shape but hardly ever produces an apple.



These were going to be turned into autumn jelly (with hawthorn, sloes, blackberries, rowan berries), but then a friend arrived and I said ‘Would you like some apples?’ expecting her to run away making the sign of the cross as she did so, as has become normal. But she said yes (though in all fairness she did look a bit surprised by the sheer size of the carrier bags I gave her, but hey ho).

I don’t mind, though. There’s the other half of the big tree still hanging on; for some reason the ones on the south side are slower to mature than the more northerly ones. I suspect it is down to exposure, the south side of the tree to some extent protecting the northern side from the full fury of the sea winds.

And, in the meanwhile, the autumn crocuses are springing up in the newly shorn meadow,

autumn crocuses

as are the mushrooms; the squashes are ripening; the greenhouse has been cleared and is full of logs, and we are about to start the great shifting of plant positions. When I’ve cleared a few more million apples off everything.

And I’ve forgotten the two crab apples. Those trees are laden, too. Agh……


Apple Day? What?

Today is, officially, Apple Day. A day to celebrate the British apple harvest.

Yeah, right. Not in this garden. It’s a shame; I miss my apples. They’re such a wonderful fruit – so useful, so tasty, so celebrated in myths, legends, stories, even going back to the earliest times; so generously abundant. Hm.

The photograph above, like almost all those in this post, was not taken this year. Normally I have something of an apple problem:

This was last year, and not a particularly good one for me, or so I thought. And then we had 2012.

Oh, it was fine in March – that eccentric warm spell brought everything into flower, including the apples.

But most of the insects hadn’t woken up so they weren’t being properly pollinated, and then it got cold. The blossom fell off and even my most prolific tree – above – sat and sulked. Dammit, even the crab apples sat and sulked. They don’t generally do that; they usually have so many apples on that we leave most of them on the trees for the birds, being content with a mere nine or ten large carrier bags bulging with perfect fruit.

So no jars of golden-pink crab apple jelly this year. No freezer full of crumble. Much to my shame, I’m buying apples. Buying, I ask you!

Maybe I forgot to wassail the trees at Christmas? I usually go out and give them a quick toast, and have even done it in snow, but I can’t remember if I did it last Christmas season. I’ve definitely displeased the apple gods, but at least it’s not just me. Forgetting to wassail your trees was always supposed to guarantee a poor harvest, so maybe the whole nation should start doing it again (except in the West Country, where I bet they’ve never stopped). So come Twelfth Night, I’ll be out there with a wee dram. I probably won’t sing to the trees, and I certainly won’t fire a gun up into them – both traditional ways of doing the business – and neither will I herald them with ‘blasts upon a cow-horn’, as one old book recommends. Noise is essential, but I usually manage to create that accidentally by tripping over roots in the dark (it’s best to do this sort of thing in the dark).

Perhaps I stripped the trees too completely? In parts of Yorkshire that’s bad; you’re supposed to leave a couple for the birds (possibly originally for the Fair Folk) and if you don’t, there’ll be trouble… no, it can’t be that superstition coming into play because of the crabs.

And it’s not just the produce I’m missing out on. Take knowing the future, for instance. Everyone knows the old games of fortune telling by means of apple skins, but I don’t imagine an apple from the shops would be quite as – er – knowledgeable as one from my own garden (and anyway I don’t want to know the initial of my future husband; seems a tad uninteresting once you’re over the age of, say, 18).

How about a cure for warts? Happily I don’t need that, but if I did I could just slice an apple in half, rub the wart with both halves, tie them back together and then bury them in the garden. Rheumatism? Apply a poultice of rotten apples (that’s especially effective, as well, if someone’s thumped you in the eye). Bit of a cough? Bake an apple and eat it with honey. Nose too red? Mop it with a decoction of apples. Fancy casting a spell to summon someone to you? Put twelve new pins in an apple and then put it on the fire.

Nah, I just can’t see an apple from Tesco cutting it in the same way. I must remember my whisky, my singing, my 12-bore and my cow’s horn and make a noise around my apple trees this coming January. And if the police arrive, I shall use this post in my defence.

Gloom and despondency – End of the Month View, September 2012

Actually, the gloom level isn’t too bad, and this is more of a harvest report than an EOMV. It’s thoroughly vile outside again – hence the ‘gloom and despondency’ – so any more conventional EOMV shots for review would be unedifying, but I’m broadly cheerful. That’s because I’ve got the Great Autumn Chutney Making out of the way.

Not so Great this year, so I don’t know if I’ll be selling any. This is my apple crop for 2012:

Yup, that’s the lot. Except for the ones the birds have had a real go at, the ones which are more peck than apple. Considering the normal conditions of excessive, impressive, extraordinary glut, the circumstances that mean all my friends run for cover if they see me approaching with bulging carrier bags, this is quite something. I know I whined about the hassle last year, but I didn’t mean anyone to take me literally!

Reviewing the veg and fruit this year has been interesting. There have been some disasters: the onion, ahem, ‘crop’, for instance. Or the shallots which rotted in the ground. The same applied to the spuds, but at least I salvaged enough not to have to buy any between June and September, and that’s much better than last year, when I got blight. Er – the potatoes did, not me.

And so, in a spirit of stupidity blind optimism, I have ordered seed potatoes for next year, because Ratte – my all-time favourite – are back in stock at Thompson and Morgan. And I do remember that I said I wouldn’t order from them after last year, but they’re the only people I’ve found so far offering Ratte in anything other than industrial quanties. Slapped in a garlic order too, and one for shallots. But no onions. I suppose I’ve learned something!

I didn’t expect much from the beans this year after they got off to such a slow and dispiriting start – if it wasn’t freezing or windy or wet, there were giant slugs for them to contend with. In the end I’ve had a reasonable crop, and one drawer of the downstairs freezer is full.

But I am afraid that this is the last, except for the few I’ve left on to grow up for next year’s seed beans. And what of the greenhouse, since the toms seem to have snuck into shot here?

It’s been great, though that’s it now.

The last of the tomatoes have been picked. All the green ones were incorporated in the Great Chutneying, and the red and semi-red ones are waiting for the oven to be free. I make Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s roast tomato passata and freeze huge quantities, and there’s a good green tom recipe on that link, too. That passata is just wonderful in the dark days of January (or late September, come to that).

But I’ll miss popping into the greenhouse and emerging, slightly sticky, having snacked on some small Prince Borghese. As it were. I might try some new varieties next year…

I’m not quite sure what this one is, for instance. I think my seed may have got mixed up as this doesn’t match anything I thought I’d planted. Again. (And yes, these were not photographed today, I admit it. Today I’d have needed vast, Hollywood-style lighting rigs to get anything.)

The peppers, which I grew as a public service – some friends had too many seedlings and didn’t want to throw them out – have been OK. I’m not going much further than that, because I think they were the vector for white spider mite. But I treated that with encarsia wasps – quite impressed. Anyway, I got some fruits,

which is more than I’ve done in the past, and they are attractive… but they do take up a lot of room for not that much return. Hmm.

Well, I suppose it is an EOMV post of a kind, so there ought to be at least one shot of the outside world. Here it is:

I’ve lost my throne, which changes the whole feel of the middle garden. I thought I’d decided what I was going to do, and now I find I haven’t. Obviously the wall needs rebuilding, and I do need to address the question of the ‘path’ with its extra tree-root decoration, but I’m a bit stumped (agh – sorry, I swear that was unintentional). Running to the left bottom corner and out of shot is a narrow border, presently full of daffodils which now need moving (too exposed) and sweet williams which don’t flower (though they now may, as there’s more light). At the moment I’m thinking of rooting up the lot and replacing them with a low and informal cotton lavender hedge – but everything will probably change…


Quite why I should want another apple tree is beyond me. It’s not as though I don’t have apples. With thanks to Andrew Marvell, it’s not so much ‘stumbling on melons, as I pass…’ as ‘sliding on windfalls, I land on my ass.’ Ahem. Sorry. Its the fumes.

I decided to strip the apple trees, especially as they were in the process of stripping themselves as the remnants of hurricane Katia came barrelling in over the bay, and despite the fact that my two freezers are both full (they’ll empty soon enough). Windy, or what? And while it wasn’t actually raining, there was a weird light and a low haze; it was only later that I realised what it was. Sand and very fine spray. Exactly the right weather to get out the stepladder and go wall-rambling.

Given the slope, it’s just as well that the stone wall is broad enough to stand on. Apart from the middle tree, which is a Cox, I have no idea what my elderly apples are. This top one is a cooker or a sharp eater when very ripe, but the birds usually beat me to the ripest. The bottom one has a hint of russet, and usually produces about six apples. But they’re good. This year, it’s had a fit of the vapours and produced loads. The top tree has done well as usual, but the birds have had most of the good apples from the Cox. I was a bit disappointed initally, but now I’m relieved.

It’s impossible to set the step ladder safely without thumping it into the ground, but P is always up for mountaineering, plastic bag in hand.

Me, I’m a wimp. I pick the ones I can reach without the need for safety ropes and crampons. Initially, P started collecting them in a trug, but it was filling up in no time so we moved on to rather less photogenic supermarket carrier bag. And I had to keep going back to the house for more. And more. They piled up in the garden,

and they piled up in the house,

where I did Triage Stage 2 (Stage 1 was done on the wall – anything too manky was either left for the birds to finish or thrown over the wall into the wildy bit and left for the animals), and redirected a bagfull which had sneaked through Stage 1 to the compost bins.

Several of my friends have expressed an interest in having a few apples, and that’s enough for me  to translate ‘a few’ into ‘a whole carrier bag’. So I’ve sorted them into keepers and those for relatively immediate use, and bagged a lot of the latter up, and have just started doling them out. Even the vaguest of suggestions is enough. B just came to read my electricity meter, for instance – clambered over the apples to get through the room to the meter, innocently said ‘oh, you have got a lot of apples’ – and left with some. It’s safest to say nothing, really. Just pretend they’re not there.

I think we were very lucky. The winds got worse, and the weather deteriorated, and by the time I’d given up work for the day and gone for a restorative walk on the beach to see what I could find to beachcomb in the storm – if anything – the sand was darkening the sky.

And when I got back, most of the apples we left were either down or even more damaged. Now I just need to give away a few more.