It is no luxury eye-level wood-fired oven, the oven we have built in the orchard. It is a repurposed, get down on your knees wood-fired oven. Here’s the story of how we built it, starting in the summer of 2020.
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!
Just days after our “Ode to Summer” came the first of the autumn storms, and the Kaiser was down:
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.
A prevailing feature in our orchard landscape whatever the season:
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:
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 🙂
An April free of frost is what we wanted and its what we got this year, that and a lot more too!
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.
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…
“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
How to colour your own Easter eggs using natural colourants and motifs: read on
One of the most charming Easter traditions here in Franconia: decorating the wells and fountains with brighly coloured Easter Eggs … read more
Last autumn I made a note of the following winter words of wisdom:
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 :
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!
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!
I do love to make a new discovery and proudly present my citrus discovery for January 2018:
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 🙂
What a fine finale to the Festival of Winter we enjoyed yesterday, 6th January, all in one bike ride back from the wintry orchard: