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Conservation Work - Past
We secured posts to support netting over the gooseberries and blackcurrants today, though it exposed the imminent need to replace the rotting bed edging in the near future. More weeding and watering of vegetables and flowers, and mowing of the pathways.
Well done to Tesfaye who managed to coax the reluctant wacker plate into life. We had barrowed 2 tonne of fine path topping to improve the final surface of the shelter, and put some aside to foot the shed.
The comfrey is in flower attracting a lot of bees. It is evident that the frost has damaged some of the flowers as developing fruit is limited, though not necessarily to a bad extent – it will ave thinning out the clusters.
We started the day doing some essential tasks at Culture Fusion. The greenhouses on the meadow had had to be moved for some scaffolding, so these were reassembled and some general gardening done. Meanwhile, in the workshop, a few of us set about separating the bundles of tongue and groove flooring planks which had been given to us as off cuts but had been securely nailed together. No mean feat, but we achieved our goal, measured them and they will just about add up to make a rather posh floor for the apple store!
After lunch we went to the Urban Nature Reserve to cut pathways and clear litter, including stuff that had been chucked in the pond. It’s looking good. Let’s hope the anti-social behaviour is a thing of the past.
Two contrasting days, in both tasks and weather. On Thursday, whilst Dennis worked away at the foundations the rest of us had a visit to the timber yard to talk to Richard Kirby of Outdoor Classrooms about our design. It was great to look around the workshop and see the sort of buildings that Richard is making. His experience led him to suggest a different approach than the one we had planned so instead of coming away with timber, we left the yard with food for thought and some more homework to do. Back at the orchard it was scorching, and just enough time for a bit of watering and weeding.
No need for watering on Friday. It rained most of the day and we all got thoroughly soaked and covered in mud. We installed two large benches which involved getting right down into a muddy hole. We also planted a range of plants to add nectar into the grasses. These included Brunnera, comfrey, chervil, loveage, foxgloves and mahonia. We replanted the herb bed as well, and in general did well to persist through to the end of the afternoon.
We are making steady progress with a range of tasks. It might not have looked like we made much progress on the ground on Thursday, but we did some essential decision making about the size and positioning of the shed. We even called on Pythagoras for some to help to ensure are walls are perpendicular.
On Friday Dennis laid the first stones for the foundation layer, once stone was collected from around the orchard. The shed is taking shape! However, it’s been a long cold winter and the cows stayed in the barns for longer than normal, hence they needed more straw. In fact they (and I guess other animals) needed it all. There is no straw to be had in England. So a key ingredient of the shed is eluding us but we want to carry on with this method of construction having chosen it as the best solution (insulation, fire proof, rodent proof, temporary if necessary).
Other tasks have included installation of a bench (almost), cutting under the trees and feeding with compost moved from the shed area.
We had a visit from Postcode Local Trust on Thursday. It was great to be able to show them the Orchard and the work that we are carrying out with Operation Orchard, as a result of the funding they have awarded.
What a change in a few short days. Never have we had a display of blossom like this for Blossom Day; most of the trees were in full flower. Belle de Boskoop was a blousy white and ladened with flowers, Winston is still emerging and slightly pink (mostly the blossom seems very pale this year). Dog’s Snout is looking attractive, and this is really the time to admire the quince which no doubt will deteriorate as the summer develops (is it suffering from quince blight?). It looks like the Bramley may be having a restful year with a smallish crop, and Blenheim Orange and Pitmaston Pineapple seem to have fallen into a biennial fruiting habit, with this being their off year.
We could hardly tell the mower was in use last week, so we gave the paths a further mow, and carried on with barking other paths and seating areas. But today was really about enjoying the space, eating apple and rhubarb cakes and apple and parsnip soup, doing a bit of drawing/investigation.
This was the start of the next phase of work at the orchard, an intense period that should see a conclusion to infrastructure improvements of Operation Orchard.
As part of operation Orchard, our project funded by the players of the Postcode local trust, we are visiting places that can help us increase our knowledge about environmentally sensitive gardening; what to plant. Andrew and Pippa have a garden in Steeton which includes flower meadows, veg area, forest garden and orchard. Both professional gardeners with RHS training, they have spent many years working out what they feel is the best way to garden sympathetically and effectively and productively. Andrew showed us their flower meadows which include plants, both native and ornamental, to attract bees. We saw how encouraging a balanced ecology created a successful fruit garden. The fruit bushes are less prone to mildew if their roots don’t dry out – a consequence of bare soil – so they allow the grass and other vegetation to grow below the bushes. The same with the fruit trees; they are planting guilds amongst the grass in the understory below the trees. These plants include early flowering comfrey (great for pollinating insects) and large leave Trachestemon which help to mulch more invasive plants.
We had started our visit under shelter, enjoying some lovely cake, whilst Andrew explained how they preserve their crop by dehydrating and juicing. We tasting some delicious dried fruits, and were shown some of the pumpkins that that they have bred – developing taste but also storage properties.
The rain did not dampen our mood; this was an inspiring visit with plenty of information and ideas to take away and consider at the orchard.
P.S. We returned a few weeks later to buy some plants which we will plant under and around the trees. Brunera, Symphytum Hidcote Blue (the early flowering comfrey), Trachestemon, Chaenophyllum roseum (a pink flowering chervil) and Primula japonica (a candelabra type primrose, quite fancy!)
What a difference a few days can make. Long johns give way to sun cream in a blink of an eye. Boar’s Well is best enjoyed in the sunshine, so it was nice to have a good day for our first visit in ages.
We were cutting back some very robust bramble from the path, as well as overhanging tree branches. We also gave a spring cut and rake to the meadow – maybe a bit later than ideal but as the meadow is now dominated by common hogweed, it felt better to do it than not.
We saw both Comma and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies whilst eating lunch (a fine looking picnic) and are pretty confident that female brimstone flew past. The robins and warblers were singing away, and the wild cherry and blackthorn blossom were looking pretty.