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Showing posts from January, 2021

Encouraging nature in the orchard

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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

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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)

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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

Moving the bees in!

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I have been a beekeeper for 3 years now 1 and when I started out I had the idea that I would produce huge amounts of honey with which I could feed my children on all year round.  It hasn't turned out that way... in fact my honey harvest has been small at best.    I decided at some point that my focus should be on observing the bees, providing pollination for things and maybe, just maybe I might get a jar or two of honey at some point. I keep my bees at the allotment 2  and I currently have two active colonies which I hope to double this year to four colonies in two locations. I decided that it makes sense to have one parent hive in each location and make splits or carry out swarm controls generating one or more extra colonies in each apiary from the parent.  I can then work to improve each apiary by selectively breeding queens from the best of the two hives.  Well that is my plan anyway!   Bees in their new spot

Traditional Orchard but on a small scale

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Blackthorn a plenty In late 2020, I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to create a small Orchard in rural Suffolk. This blog will follow my journey and pool together all the experiences, research and discoveries I have made along the way.  Byng Brook Orchard is going to be maintained as a traditional orchard 1 but on a small scale. The orchard is on a corner of a friend's farm and is about 300m2 2 and I hope to create something that provides some of the benefits that a traditional orchard offers but on a small scale. If this works to create a bio-diverse environment for lots of lovely creatures and plants then maybe I can inspire others to do the same with their little strips of land. One of my inspirations for this is Orchard: A Year in England's Eden by  Benedict Macdonald  and  Nicholas Gates 3 .  They write of an orchard in Herefordshire which they surveyed over the months of a year to s

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