Midsummer in the Orchard

 

Sour cherries, many, many sour cherries…,

stoned on site and bottled by evening:

# Red Wine Syrup for Preserving

# Cherry Liqueur

# Country Tart with Cherries

# Creme Fraiche Waffles with Red Wine Cherries

# Superstreuselkuchen

Red Wine Preserving Syrup

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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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!

19_04_2015 mit Biene

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 kĂĽhl, Juni nass, fĂĽllt 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…

 

Easter Tastes & Traditions

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Superstreuselkuchen

“IN ANCIENT AGRICULTURAL SOCIETIES, EGGS PROVIDED A VITAL SOURCE OF NUTRITION. BY MID-MARCH, FOOD STORES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR WOULD HAVE BEEN RUNNING LOW. THE FIRST EGGS OF THE YEAR, LAID BY DOMESTICATED FOWL OR FORAGED FROM THE NESTS OF WILD BIRDS, ADDED MUCH-NEEDED NUTRIENTS TO PEOPLES’ DIET.  …”” read more

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Hedgerow Hues & Meadow Motifs

How to colour your own Easter eggs using natural colourants and motifs: read on

Easter Wells

One of the most charming Easter traditions here in Franconia: decorating the wells and fountains with brighly coloured Easter Eggs … read more

 

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!

 

 

 

Bergamots

I do love to make a new discovery and proudly present my citrus discovery for January 2018:

 

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Bergamots,

and what wonderful little gems they are.

Reliably identified as the sour orange hybrid Citrus bergamia Risso,  I discovered them at my organic market this week, imported from Morrocco (this is the only time of year where I am to be found blogging about imported produce!), and I snapped them up purely out of curiosity.

 

And I am so glad I did!

“Grapefruit overtones, a spicy galangal-like punch (which calms down once cooked), as well as orange and lemon nuancing in the background, becoming lingering lime once cooked”.

That is my bergamot sound bite.

And this is what I have done with them so far: a classic soft set marmalade of delectable dimensions 🙂

 

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The Winter Solstice and the Festival of Winter

What a fine finale to the Festival of Winter we enjoyed yesterday, 6th January, all in one bike ride back from the wintry orchard:

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   The winter solstice is upon us and with it the “Mittwinterfest”, or Yule – celebrating the rebirth of the sun as we (slowly) turn the corner towards the light half of the year again…
It is an ancient festival featuring countless legends, rituals and symbols, not to mention the many omens – each of the twelve days of Yule are said to predict the weather in the corresponding twelve months to come, for instance. In the Germanic and northern European tradition, the twelve days of Yule therefore had to be a time of peace, as well, and a time of no work so that there would be less work to be done in the new year. Spinning and weaving, in particular, were forbidden and all the flax had to be spun before the start of Yule. Only the Goddess Frig (Frigg, Freyja), the Germanic goddess of love, was allowed to weave together the threads of destiny for the coming year… No work involving a circular motion was permitted at this time either, because the wheel of time was at a standstill during Yule and so every other wheel had to remain motionless too…

Our German Gingerbread Gallery

All quiet in the orchard at this time of the year (but Hermann the German is sharpening up his specialist tree pruning saw for the winter pruning due to start any weekend now…) so we (mainly me and sometimes Mini-Kraut) have been busy in the kitchen creating some more exhibits for our gingerbread gallery.

This year’s main creation has to remain a secret for the time being until this year’s Christmas Guests of Honour have been able to peruse and applaud it live, but we have been busy baking building components for lucky recipients in the neighbourhood, complete with building instructions, in German:

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Here are a few flashbacks to past creations where we have gained all this skill and experience 🙂

2016: Recreated in gingerbread, the little village in the Wiesent Valley, close to Erlangen, where we like to spend our holidays and long weekends

 

2015: The tree house that collapsed and became a forest hideaway (Waldversteck)

 

 

 

2014: The Forest Gnomes’ Railway

Snow with copyright

 

2013: Nutville, or Nußdorf in the vernacular

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2012 was when we started expanding from single buildings to gingerbread urban development:

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2011: was our very first attempt.

Lesson 1 was: make sure the roof weighs less than the walls 🙂

But it all came right on the night!

 

 

Happy Christmas!