Celebrating the Constants

The first Sunday in Advent is upon us and we celebrate the constants in life:

A candle for each season each week between now and Christmas

Each candle sitting on a slice of apple wood from the fallen Kaiser, the circle of life.

Fruitful symbols of nature’s bounty.

Our Three Wise Ones (Question Everything, Think for Yourself, Trust in Yourself)

And the little folk who survived the Great Cupboard Disaster.

Enjoy the symbolism: Happy Advent!

Requiem for a Kaiser

Just days after our “Ode to Summer” came the first of the autumn storms, and the Kaiser was down:

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Of the variety “Kaiser Wilhelm”, a chance discovery on an estate in Germany in 1864 and named after the German Kaiser Wilhelm 1, this was one of our three “Kaiser Wilhems” and one of the most prominent trees in our orchard.

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A prevailing feature in our orchard landscape whatever the season:

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He was also one of our high performance trees – 360 kg of apples in any given year was the norm, as was the case this year in what was to be his last harvest, and despite his age:

A variety known for its longevity, we estimate that our fallen Kaiser was heading for a hundred years old when the Beaufort 10, 11 and 12 gales on the evening of 23 September 2018 proved too much, and down he went:

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The changed view with the fallen Kaiser will take some getting used to and for now he lies in peace where he fell, letting himself be explored by young hands and feet clambering over his now fallen heights: the future running its young hands over his otherwise lofty leaves and lichens.

A part of the circle of life he will remain, as his wood goes on to house and feed the myriad of other little beings that lived alongside him in the orchard.

And yes, you can get very attached to a tree 🙂

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A Summer of Superlatives

That’s what we got this year in answer to our springtime ponderings:

April warm, Mai kühl, Juni nass, füllt dem Bauer Scheuer und Fass

April warm, May cool, June wet, fills the farmer’s barn and barrel.

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/blossoms-bees-barns-barrels/

April was warm and frost free, May was not particularly cool and June was certainly not wet, neither was July, or August, or September… it was just hot, very hot, and very dry, for very long…

Yet the fruit harvest in Franconia’s orchards is a recordbreaker this year (and about three weeks ahead of “normal” ripening times).

But what does that actually mean in these times of far removed mass plastic food production? Who can picture what a “record harvest” might look like?

Let’s have a go.

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Here in Bavaria’s main plum growing area it means : 400 tonnes more plums than usual.

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Here in our district the fruit presses have stopped taking apple deliveries because they are overloaded…

Narrowing it down to facts and figures based on our 2 hectare traditional (i.e. non-plantation) orchard:

8kg redcurrants, 10 kg sour cherries, 10kg nectarines, 11kg mirabelle plums, 26kg blackberries, 57 kg cherry plums, 70 kg grapes, 85 kg Switzen plums…

All of which is in fact the upper end of normal,

and then we get to the apples:

3200 kg to date with about another 1000 kg still to come off the trees. The previous record over a period of six years was 1500 kg.

Still to come are the pears and the quinces, both looking like weighing in at the upper end of normal too.

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So its the apples that have done it: more or less three times their previous record harvest!

We invested in our own stand alone fruit press this year – and not a minute too soon!

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18_08_ waiting for the apple express

Hand-picked, processed and pasteurised by ourselves:

that takes us right back to the origins of where food – and drink – come from!

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Blossoms, Bees, Barns & Barrels

An April free of frost is what we wanted and its what we got this year, that and a lot more too!

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The warmest April for ten years in these parts has had the orchard out in its finest floral glory and – fortunately – there are still bees there to do the pollinating.

Copy (1) of Bee pollinator

Even more fortunate, albeit long overdue and not yet enough, is the news last week of the EU’s ban on the outdoor use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam i.e. the neonicotinoid pesticides that have had such a devastating impact on bee populations across Europe.

 

 

Back in the days before Bayer & Co, my German farmers’ almanac had this to say:

April warm, Mai kühl, Juni nass, füllt dem Bauer Scheuer und Fass

April warm, May cool, June wet, fills the farmer’s barn and barrel.

We’ve had the warm April, so now we wait to see whether  May fits the pattern or not…

 

As Spring follows Winter

Last autumn I made a note of the following winter words of wisdom:

7 November 2017 

The sheep were eating fresh nettles all summer even though there was plenty of grass & other greenery available. The shepherd says: means its going to be a hard winter.

Other country folk are saying that there are more hazel catkins out than is usual for the autumn: means its going to be a hard winter.

I revisted this winter forecast as the calender moved into winter proper :

16 January 2018

Casting a look back at this post from the autumn when country lore was telling us that a hard winter was ahead: no sign of it yet but then we are only a few weeks into winter so far!

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The calender now moves into spring and so, how did it look, our winter?

 

 

 

Some (very) stormy gales, a week or so of sustained ice, day and night, but very little snow – not even enough for a snowman this year :

So no, the nettles and the catkins were not signs of a hard winter this time round.

And will hopefully not be the sign of a hard spring as this is the critical season in the orchard: the trees are awakening from their winter slumber as the warmth and the light make themselves felt. Buds and blossoms become more apparent and, once the blossoms open, the last thing we need is frost, not by day and not by night.

Frozen blossoms are dead blossoms and then the (non-)harvest is a dead loss!

This March has had many bright and sunny days so far and my German country almanac tells me:

Ist März schön und hell, kommt viel Obst auf alle Fäll’.

If March is sunny and bright, there will be plenty of fruit alright.

… If it is followed by a frost-free April!