Welcome to the blog

William Hebditch - January 1st, 2012.

New Cross Strawberries

Happy Brexit.

William Hebditch - July 9th, 2018.

What a mess our politicians are in. It is quite difficult to understand why Johnson and Davis agreed on Friday then resigned, why didn’t they do it in front of the whole cabinet? Small cojones perhaps. I still wish the Brexit side would really explain what the advantages are outside of the union. Most economists, many major companies and even New Cross Fruit Farm think that little good will come out of it all. I am fascinated that Lord Lawson is getting French residency and J. Rees Mogg is setting up part of his hedge fund in Dublin. That shows real confidence in the UK. Ah, but, we’re going to have new trade deals with that sane man in the USA. Perhaps we should ask Putin to buy us out. Interesting to find that Aaron Banks had 11 meetings with the Russian ambassador around the referendum time.

I was always told to follow the money… so where is Banks making his stash, and Rees Mogg?  What about Farage and his crew. I can’t see the benefit in turning the UK into a backwater, loosing skilled jobs and increasing the number of zero hours contracts. Ok, we may have lots of jobs when all the “Europeans” leave the health service, care homes, hospitality and even horticulture. It will certainly devastate the tax base and hence any remaining Government services. No doubt we’ll still be able to send our armed forces around the world, exerting our non existent influence. Big aircraft carriers with no planes.. sounds useful. 4 nuclear submarines under the ultimate control of President Trump…Nice one.

It’s interesting to see how horticulturists, like us, are changing their investment plans. A lot of people planting perennial crops are holding off making investment decisions.. just like the car and aerospace industries. Perhaps some good will come of it. Perhaps we can be serfs on Rees Mogg’s estate.

Disappearing moths

William Hebditch - July 2nd, 2018.

This is the weather we need for cherries. Dry. Just a pity the weather wasn’t better during pollination as we have quite a small crop. The order of ripening of the various varieties seems to be a little wonky, particularly Kordia and Summersun.  It’s making our life trying to provide a regular cherry supply a bit difficult, we could do with something ripening in the next few days.  Next week we should be back on song.

Meanwhile the raspberries are really lovely. I always stick a load in the freezer, in their punnets, and then have them with my breakfast cereal through the year.Gooseberries are all but done and dusted, so if you want some, come quick!

Next week the Ribena blackcurrant harvest will get underway. Last year we had a big problem with caterpillars getting into the bins of fruit. When you put a harvester into the crop, we catch all sorts, insects, wasp nests and one of our neighbours even picked a grass snake! Our caterpillars were Light Brown apple moth, a fairly recent introduction to this country. Our bushes were diggered with them. I’ve had pheromone traps out for them in the plums and cherries and they generally get controlled by Codling moth or Plum Fruit moth sprays, so I’m generally not too bothered about them. After last years outbreak I’ve been assiduously trapping the blighters, and, guess what, hardly caught a single moth. Actually 4 in 2 months in 4 traps. Then it was suggested that perhaps they weren’t LBAM but Carnation tortrix moths, so I go out and buy traps for them as well. Not a single moth…So the million dollar question is why has the population crashed so drastically? Answers on a postcard, please.

Meanwhile, fingers crossed the weather stays fine. Harvesting is so much better in the dry.

Mrs Tristram

William Hebditch - June 16th, 2018.

We are rapidly approaching the end of another Asparagus season. Last cut on mid summers day. That allows the plants to produce loads of foliage to harvest the sunlight to make carbohydrates which are stored in the root system. This is what makes asparagus grow next year so a long hot summer is good for next season.

Actually we are coming into a vital period for next years fruit crops. Most bush and tree fruits are just starting to initiate flower buds,, just where leaves reach the stem, the “axil”. So not only is the plant supporting this years crop but resources have to go to the buds. We hope photosynthetic abilities are at their peak and nutrient supplies are not compromised. In some ways you want high nitrogen levels, to stimulate vegetative growth, but there is a downside to fruit quality, high N gives low fruit sugars and much increased rotting potential. With Blackcurrants those two factors directly influence price. low sugars and high rots mean a big price decrease. So it’s a case of fingers crossed that we’ve supported the bushes well up to now, without an excess of nitrogen to cause problems. All gets revealed when the fruit goes to the factory and quality and Brix (sugar) levels are known. Generally the fruit crops look healthy with strong green leaves but there is quite a lot of fruit to divert nutrition from the buds. I can witter on about such things ad infinitum so I’d better shut up!

For all my growing career, we’ve had a Ribena “temporary field officer” to keep us growers in line. A lovely lady who reaches a very significant birthday this year. The number 9 is involved… We’re off to a party in her honour tonight. It’s a month ahead of the proper date ( which was slap bang in the middle of the currant harvest) as it’s a joint party with her daughter.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUBY!!

Bees

William Hebditch - May 30th, 2018.

Sorry, haven’t done very well writing blogs lately. We’ve had some staffing problems, people coming and going, so it’s been all hands to the pump to keep the show going. Sort of classic swan thing, serene on top whilst paddling furiously underneath.

Most of the flowering season is now over and generally we have a fair set of the different fruits. Nothing looks like it will be horribly overcropping but there are definitely heavy crops of the earlier Blackcurrant varieties. Raspberry flowers have been impressive, on the good days they absolutely hum with bees. Mostly bumbles, we buy in extra Bombus terrestris bees and now have quite a large number of wild Bombus hypnorum colonies. Luckily they nest in trees and bird boxes, so out of reach of my black and white friends. Interesting to see how many ground nesting bee colonies we have on the farm. You see the remains of a few beaten up worker bees where the colony has been dug up. Just recently as the honey stores have been built up, the b….rs start digging them out. Ah, but, it’s farmers who kill all the bees…

Of course, honey bees are farmed and only survive with human intervention. If it is economically unviable to maintain bee hives because people aren’t prepared to pay a realistic price for English honey, then hives will not be maintained and bee numbers drop. Doh, simple really.  We do have our own colony of black wild bees on the farm. Magic stuff, love watching them. And they are nicely high up in a tree out of reach.

We have a new cultivar of raspberry with a code number, D3 to us, really early, so we hope to be picking in a couple of weeks. 30 days from flowering to fruit. 90 days for Ben Vane blackcurrants….Folfer cherries are swelling, our first time with this variety.

There ain’t gold in them thar hills

William Hebditch - May 11th, 2018.

What a roller coaster ride of a spring, a couple of days of heat then back to cold. Makes planning an asparagus crop utterly impossible. It’s a real seat of the pants year. Then today 4 of our workers left us mid morning. Next week will be a little difficult so please bear with us whilst we try and sort out our troubles!

Mean while the good weather over the bank holiday weekend appears to have helped with the setting of cherries and blackcurrant flowers. Though it’s so difficult to call on cherries, they do have a tendency to continually drop fruitlets right through till harvest. This year we decided to put the nets on early to stop all the pigeons grazing young foliage and pea green tiny cherries. We missed out 1 bed, that’s been murdered by the b. pigeons!

David and Louisa are coming back soon from the gold mine in Mali, perhaps they’ll bring an ingot with them! I’ve seen photo’s of a 25 kg ingot, looks very impressive and expensive. Don’t think I’ll have much luck panning in the Lambrook brook!

Mole

William Hebditch - April 25th, 2018.

A slightly strange spring, late and very fast. Plum blossom out for 3 days then gone. That coincided with the hot weather so we’ll probably end up with a crop. It pushed on the cherries and currants into what is now a rather uninspiring week and what apparently will be a cold weekend. Such is life. It’s kept me busy with the sprayer, trying to protect flowers against blossom wilt and botrytis. Both diseases of wet and cool weather.

The covered asparagus is well on the go. Outdoor is hardly showing a spear yet. Oh the joy of modern materials. At least we can give you fresh Asparagus on a daily basis. It’s just a tedious job lifting polythene, cutting then putting it all back. Dirty heavy work! I must say the asparagus we’ve eaten so far is jolly nice, very sweet and moreish.

Even though many flowers have come and gone quickly, including our wonderful patch of Fritillaries in the garden, the swathes of primroses have been absolutely spectacular. When the first flowers came out, I thought how poor they looked, then, wow, did they come good! And farmers can’t be blamed…. I see it’s our fault that there are no Hedgehogs around now, intensive farming and all that, and a tenfold expansion of the badger population has had no effect. Yeh, right! I’d better not blame them for the dead mole at the bottom of the garden, ’cause it would have been a very small starter for a brock.  Moles are so lovely, those amazing front paws and beautiful fur. Wonder how it died?

It’s the weather

William Hebditch - March 29th, 2018.

Oh my, isn’t this weather just plain horrid. A March to forget. I’m fed up with plugging through the mud and of course it’s keeping the soil temperature down and so no Asparagus.

Perhaps the new month will be better. Let’s hope. Going by previous experience, we hope to start cutting ‘gras around week beginning 16th of April. We’ve got quite a lot covered so when we do start we will have a regular daily supply. No doubt it will produce a great big flush when it starts. I think that will be the story of spring from now on. So often when it’s late everything is all ready to burst back into life and there will be lots of flowers out at the same time. We did see the first solitary bees a couple of days ago and I saw a Brimstone butterfly. So spring really is just around the corner.

I wonder if we’ll ever have clarity about Brexit. I was at a NFU meeting yesterday, interesting, but loads of conjecture. It’s just 365 days away now, I still wonder whether we should be off to the continent for our dotage. Will we need a visa to go to our son’s wedding? Or on a more farming thought, will we be able to harvest any crops next year.

Woodcock

William Hebditch - March 14th, 2018.

I saw a woodcock today. The very first one I’ve seen all winter. They are such pretty birds.Just for once British agriculture is not being blamed for the reduced numbers seen here this year. It’s the beastly Russians, well, their bad weather last breeding season. Now we can look forward to swallows and martins. I hope some make it back to New Cross.

Most of the asparagus has now been covered with polythene. Some nice bright sunshine would be good, so that the soil warms quickly and we can start cutting. It looks like it will be a late season, especially if we have this cold snap this weekend. Only a few buds are moving, Ben Vane blackcurrants and Invicta gooseberries. The honey berries are coming into flower. It will be interesting to see if they survive the frosts over the next few days. They were bred in Saskatchewan ( can’t ever pronounce that right) and are supposed to be frost hardy to -5 centigrade.

The other thing we’re looking forward to is our first seakale. We’re blanching it under polythene. The wild stuff, unblanched, is  rather bitter, it’s all those glucosinolates which are sooo good for you. Hopefully our blanched seakale will have most of the good stuff but a little less of the harshness. Time will tell.

We’ve had a tragedy at East Lambrook, the lovely thatched cottage opposite the Rose and Crown burnt down yesterday. Our hearts go out to the owners.

Is spring springing?

William Hebditch - March 8th, 2018.

The snow as come and gone, just the way we like it. We hunkered down for 2 days, didn’t bother to go out and about, so it was all very relaxing! Luckily our Romanian boys arrived on Wednesday night, when there were just a few snow flurries and a very cold wind at Bristol airport! Back to work this week, we’ve covered our little seakale patch with black/white polythene to blanch it and asparagus is being covered with clear thermic polythene. Hopefully this will warm up the soil so we can start cutting  ‘gras  by times.

It’s Liz’s big week end coming up, a significant birthday and mothering Sunday on the 11th. David, Louisa and Katy are all coming plus Liz’s mum will be here for Sunday lunch. I hope the weather is half sensible so we can have some nice walks between eating too much!

It seems so unusual to be here in March with out much growing out on the farm The pear buds are swelling, as are the Vane blackcurrants. So often by now it’s all go go go with spraying and stuff, just as well really with the windy weather. No doubt when it warms up everything will grow away like fury. Much better than these long drawn out springs.

Maria

William Hebditch - February 24th, 2018.

40 years ago this week I was stuck in Taunton for 4 days due to a blizzard.  I’d been to Lancashire, left on the Sunday in bright sunshine, past Bristol and the M5 became single track weaving through the drifts. Are we going to get snow later this week? The cold we’re supposed to be getting sounds quite awesome, -5 in March, that’s a shocker. At times like these, I’m glad we didn’t take a serious punt on Apricots. Our few trees are showing a bit of colour on the buds. Certainly cannot stand that sort of cold! Apparently Honeyberries can stand it. Well, we’ll see, the first are now in flower.

We have 3 Romanian boys turning up on Wednesday night. Think they’ll have a bit of a shock getting of the plane. Hope we get home before the snow…. We’ll start covering asparagus as soon as possible, so we’re still hoping to cut by April 14th.

Some of you may know Maria Popa, she worked for us a few years ago and then decided to stay in England, making Henry hoovers. Unfortunately, a fortnight ago, whilst back in Romania, she had a car accident and is still in hospital. Our thoughts are with her. It always reminds one of how fragile life can be.