Frugal Orchardism

 I think Macgyver would enjoy beekeeping.   Wikipedia lists his hobbies as guitar and the art of painting but surely he would have been a master of the mystical art of Frugal Orchardism too. To give you some background information to this post (which has really just been an excuse to research and rewatch one of my favourite childhood tv programmes), Macgyver was an American TV show that used to screen every Saturday when I was growing up. The titular character who sported a lightly gelled mullet was regularly fighting the forces of evil with his trusty Swiss army knife and a paperclip.  He was a master problem solver, engineering elegant solutions from his surroundings.  Helping the downtrodden or vulnerable using his quick mind for problem-solving. Frugal Orchadism is my attempt at solving my orchard/beekeeping based problems without breaking the bank. I am pretty sure this is what Macgyver would do too.   For example, when I took over the piece of land that is now the orchard I was p

Waiting for Spring

 I'm not an advocate of wishing away one's days.  I believe in making the most of your time.  Living in the moment and enjoying spending time with the people around you.  Trying to cherish every day! Easier said than done I hear you cry - especially now. What with home schooling, national lockdowns, freezing winters and working from home everything can become a bit Groundhog Day-ish.  Every morning the radio doesn't wake me up with Sonny and Cher but I do feel like my toothbrushing routine time comes around very fast.  Maybe I'm getting old... Saying all that, I have been optimistic about my beekeeping.  I have been re reading all of my beekeeping texts, I have been joining in at the beekeeping association zoom talks, I have been making plans for how I will expand my amount of hives and how I will sell all the hundreds of lbs of honey that the bees will make this year (fingers crossed!).  But it wasn't until yesterday that I really knew that they had survived the Wi

Snow, Hefting and St. Valentine

 This post has been stressing me out... As regular readers will know, I have set myself the New Year's resolution of writing a blog post every week for an entire year.  Last year I succeeded in composting all my food waste for a year so I felt like an NYR master.  I thought if I just use this blog as an orchard diary and type up what I had been doing that week I'd always have something to write about (hopefully this wont get too boring). As I am always going up there I'd always have content...  What I didn't account for is the snowiest, iciest weather in 65 years. No driving to the orchard for Blake and no bird seed for the birds.    Now someone I know from work told me that this cold weather is directly related to the reduction in fumes across the world due to the various covid lockdowns.  If this is true (please can the scientists get in touch and point me in the right direction if it is not) then it shows what a difference a year can make to our environment and how a

Apple tree guilds

By the time you read this snow will have fallen a plenty and dusted Byng Brook with a wintry blanket.  If it gets bad I'll have to fight my way up there and make sure the beehive hasn't been covered and the entrance blocked.  I have been regularly hefting my hives and they are heavy and will hopefully be fine.  The weather at this time of year is so changeable.  I enjoyed warm sun and saw the bees flying two days ago and tonight we have an amber warning from the MET office threatening deep snow and ice.  All of this is to be expected as it's winter but when you are in lockdown a change in the weather gets everyone excited. So on to the Apple Tree Guild. What is an apple tree guild? Last week I mentioned that I hoped to start working on my Apple tree guilds and this week I did.  But what is an apple tree guild?  It is a secret society where groups of apple tree growers gather around and stroke their trees and whisper secrets about best apple growing practices... actually it&

Encouraging nature in the orchard

An important thing to do when establishing a traditional orchard is to encourage biodiversity - a community that will support each other and hopefully keep the apple tree pests at bay.  For me in my small orchard this means bird feeders, bug houses, log piles, short grass, long grass, rocks to hide under, bird houses, watery ditches etc. 1 When Byng Brook Orchard is more mature hopefully less effort will be required. Nooks and crannies will develop naturally and a balanced biodiverse ecosystem will reveal itself over time and hopefully with a bit of nurturing we will have bountiful harvests and provide a place of plenty for everything else too. So, I decided to use some of my collection of bird feeders from home to encourage birds to eventually nest in the big hedge at the back of the orchard.  I had several seed feeders and peanut feeders which needed a clean before they could be used again. Once i'd removed the old seeds, I used soapy hot water a

Finding an antique tool in the hedgerow and restoring it

An overgrown field full of spiky plants hides a number of treasures.  So far I have found a large copper saucepan, various bits of old wood, a space invaders crisp packet from the 80's and a 12" rusty curved knife. I stashed most of it away in my mini barn (made from an old pig ark) but the blade piqued my interest.  What was it and why was it under a massively overgrown hedgerow?  I took it home and gave it an initial clean up and discovered some markings on the side of it.  The markings read Elwell 1948 (with an up arrow)  A quick bit of google research told me that it was the head from an old slasher (the up arrow signifies that it was made for the military). A slasher 1 which is a disappointingly accurate name but not a very exciting one, was/is used for trimming hedges before the use of the mechanical tractor mounted machines that trim the roadside hedgerows every year.  It does pretty much the same job just much more slowly and is much more exh

The best way to plant apple trees (or how I did it)

So, this post is a bit delayed as I actually planted my apple trees on the Winter Solstice 1 2020. To set the scene, it was getting dark and both of my children were scampering about getting cold and I felt the sense of an imminent demand to go home.  I’m pretty sure that the atmosphere was not conducive to a quality tree planting session but you know, it seems apt for 2020.  First things first, when you want to establish an orchard, the decision you must make is what type of fruit you want and what varieties of those fruits are most useful for your plans.  I decided I wanted to grow apple trees - specifically varieties which will make good juice and cider. I also wanted trees which when mature will make quite large trees but small enough to allow me to grow a few different varieties on my tiny plot. Surprising Fact No.1 - Apple trees aren't generally grown using their own roots! Apple trees are often grown using the roots of another tree. It is  the roots (and pa

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