In November, 2011 the first phase of our orchard arrived. Over that three year period the orchard has developed and grown from a scrub land clawed back from willow herb and stone, to a new orchard free of weeds to something more established. In 2011 we had this:
In 2013, we had this:
And, in 2014....
We have in three years seen some trees fail, the Damson Merryweather succumbed last year to an unknown disease and the Greengage passed out in the heat of this summer. We even have an Apple Balsam that may not make through to next year but what we have left is a strong orchard full of old varieties that this year started to crop. The first few years of an orchard is always sticky, the first year means stripping off the fruit to allow the roots to develop and then in the second year you find yourself concentrating on structure and pruning.
Mistakes are made, we sprayed the Apple Balsam with Bordeaux Mixture when we suspected it had canker only to discover that it is no longer on the organic lists. It also burnt the new foliage that came through and though we have leaves on the lower trunk, the branches above are bare. Then there is the question of windfall apples, many orchards leave them to rot or they are picked up and made into cider but we are far from having enough apples to do that. Our apples along with are abundance of blackberries went into a homemade crumble. The great thing about windfalls is that you can chop them up, see whether you have any bugs lurking in your apples to come, but also make sure that none of your harvest goes to waste.
It's taken us three years, of ups and downs, of dead trees and growing successes to get our first crumble and it was worth the wait and the windfalls.