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William Hebditch - January 1st, 2012.

New Cross Strawberries

Slugs

William Hebditch - October 26th, 2017.

All quiet on the New Cross front. We’re putting everything to bed for the winter, but the weather appears to have other ideas. It’s so warm for late October! Haven’t seen any asparagus shoots yet, like we did a couple of years ago. Any way, nobody here to cut them if they did grow!

Not a lot to report otherwise, Liz has been stonecarving down at Tom Clarkes’ in Bower Hinton. She’s going again in a couple of weeks. I’ve been to a couple of operas and off to see the new Nico Muhly “Marnie” at the beginning of December.

The local shooting season is well underway, which provides us a supply of partridge. We have a field in the middle of the shoot… it’s, sort of, rent. I understand that some of the bigger pheasant shoots literally can’t give the birds away. A hundred quid a brace flying, minus 30p when on the game cart. Such a pity more people don’t try pheasant. Very good eating!

Got a day with three ladies on Monday, talking all things wildlife and Blackcurrants. Ribena want to be associated with wild life friendly farms. At the moment we seem to be dominated by large black and white mammals  (wish we were in a cull area) and corvids. Fat chance for much else to survive. With the number of slugs about you’d expect to be heaving with slug eating birds. No such luck. Perhaps we’ll have some decent cold to reduce their numbers.

slugs

William Hebditch - September 18th, 2017.

I keep on forgetting to have my little rants at this time of year. bar one variety of Perry pears, all our harvesting is finished. First time in my career that we’re done and dusted by the middle of September. It’s all because we’ve reduced the amount of apples we grow.  Once upon a time we had nearly 200 acres, mostly Cox and Gala, now it’s nearer 10 and almost all early varieties. Of course this year apple prices will be good…. that usually means getting about the same for them as we did in the 1980’s. Inflation… what’s that in a fruit growers world?

When we pulled out some orchards last year, we planted a mix of chicory, Phacelia and various clovers. This year it’s been a riot of blue flowers and now we’re seeing lots of small birds feeding on it. It’s also attracting other insects and hence swallows use it as a restaurant before their migration. Lovely to see, especially as we have had such a dearth of wildlife this year. Bar the black and white beasts who are still digging out the bumble bee nests. Wish they would take a fancy to the slugs. Never seen such enormous ones nor so many. When we’ve lifted polythene around baby blackcurrants it looks like masses of caviar. Any one fancy slug eggs?

Vicars

William Hebditch - August 23rd, 2017.

Three out of nine of our Romanian staff have at least started to be taught at seminaries back home. We’ve particularly tried to get Olie to intercede with the powers that be to stop the rain. Now we’re nearly at the end of the harvest it looks like he might have been successful. Well, the forecasts are showing a dryer time ahead. I thought the schools had another week of holiday. It seems to be a fact of life that schools break up for the holidays and the weather goes downhill! We get frustrated enough as farmers, but I do think of all those people organising so many outdoor events which always go easier if it’s dry overhead.

I laughed the other day when I heard someone going on about how we farmers had to become more “resilient” because of climate change. He reckoned we’d have more summer droughts and more winter rain. Did he miss out on the basic physics, warm air can hold more water…. hence heavier summer rainfall. Every once in a while someone asks me why we haven’t got irrigation facilities… just wish we could have a dry summer for a change!

If you’re reading this and want Victoria plums, come quick, we’ll be finishing soon. Our Damson stocks are diminishing rapidly as well. Short of nuts at the moment, will be back on stream next week.

daftness.

William Hebditch - August 17th, 2017.

We are in the thick of our Victoria plum season, they seem to be coming out of our ears at the moment. We’ll have them for a couple more weeks then we’ll be into Guinevere and President plums. Hopefully we’ll have them picked by the middle of September. What will be strange for us is that for the first time in my 40 year career, we won’t be picking any apples to put in coldstore. Hopefully all the fruit will leave the farm by the end of September, that even includes Perry pears for Burrow Hill cider.

We use lots of polythene in the growing processes of asparagus and Blackcurrants. Much of it is pocketed poly so it has these pockets full of soil. We’re going to dispose of lots of our old stuff, so we have to clean out the pockets. A dirty old job, but paying to dispose of soil is very expensive. I am always amazed that it’s ever recycled. I was told that the energy costs of washing then recycling are immense. It would be far more sensible to use it as an energy source and burn it in a “clean” plant. Plastic netting, like our cherry nets, can’t be recycled so go into landfill. Daft.

But daft is how I see lots of things at the moment, like our so called negotiations with the EU. I wonder what will happen. We’re non the wiser 14 months after the vote.

Victorias

William Hebditch - July 29th, 2017.

Our season moves along at vast speed. We’re consistently starting harvesting any fruit at least 10 days earlier than last year. We will have Victoria plums week beginning 7th August, also Merryweather Damsons and hopefully Hazelnuts. Fruit size looks good and hopefully we’ll have some sunshine to up the sugar levels. Opal plums have been lovely, good size again and marvellous flavour. We’re also starting to pick some of our odd gages and things like Avalon and Reeves. Have to say these other ones knock Vics into a cocked hat… but I realise everyone loves Vics…

Reckon that Tuesday will be our last harvesting day for Blackcurrants for Ribena. An “ok” year, not great quality or high sugar levels in our case. These things happen, just wish they were more under our control when it directly relates to how much we’re payed. Other areas have been dryer and sunnier, so have better results.

At least the asparagus fern has liked the rain, came just right, I spread fertiliser then it poured, so the Nitrogen has gone straight to the roots and really helped push on the fern. Plus the dreaded beetle hasn’t been too bad this year.

Liz has had an interesting season so far with our picking gang. People have come and gone for all sorts of reasons, but we’ve never had anyone escorted off the farm by the police before. Not fun. But we struggle on, wondering what on earth our future may be in this weird Brexit world.

Healthy Blackcurrants

William Hebditch - June 22nd, 2017.

What an interesting decision of Mrs May!  The concept of de facto rule by the DUP is a quite surreal thought. Paisley for PM!

I hope it will have a significant affect on Brexit. One get’s the impression that David Davis is not exactly wowing the EU! Of course our concerns are rather selfish, we’d like to continue, at least for a while, producing some pretty good fruit and veg. I hosted a couple of Scottish plant breeders yesterday ( Blackcurrant specialists) but they have a new fairly late red gooseberry with thin skin and superb flavour. I just go ooh, I’d love to try them! Perhaps I’ll get a couple for the garden. I was also trying to see if they had any long strigged Blackcurrants. They breed loads of different crosses for Ribena, most never make the grade for juice, but perhaps there is one lurking that would be good for fresh production. We know how stacked full of good Anthocyanins Blackcurrants are, far better than Blueberries, it’s just being able to harvest them at a realistic cost. Perhaps it’ll be a project for my dotage!

The end is nigh

William Hebditch - June 8th, 2017.

I’m sure I’ve used that title before, but it’s true, we are just days away from the end of our Asparagus season. our last cut will be around the 21st of June. Exact date depends on weather and other commitments. We cut all the asparagus from the bed then it gets a weed killer and fertiliser before being left to fern up. As it grows so quickly, the weedkiller goes on immediately the spears have been taken off. That way we can get a good clean up of weeds so there is as little competition for the asparagus as possible.

What a ghastly night of wind and rain last Monday. It looks like a roller ran over some of our baby currants, that’s second year bushes that should be cropping next year. The shoots are green and not lignified and break off easily at the junction with the roots. So we have 2 foot branches strewn about. Then there are the fruits that have been bashed about and bruised, that includes apples, plums and cherries.

Talking of cherries, we have just netted some of the beds. Unfortunately the set has not been very good, remember all those cold north easterly winds at the beginning of May? I was told very early in my cherry growing career, that North easterlies are your worst enemy, well, after a good hard frost… So this spring started nice and warm then deteriorated with the wind, several sharp frosts and a good hailstorm.  You couldn’t ask for much worse, except 2 of your pickers upping sticks and leaving! Bit of a torrid time!

Now I just hope it warms up and drys up for all the outdoor activities every one has planned for this summer. We really don’t need any rain for a while now!!

Goosegogs

William Hebditch - May 30th, 2017.

We have just started picking gooseberries, to the sounds of lots of squeaks and yells. It takes a while to get the technique right and avoid the worst of the thorns. The modern varieties are mildew resistant but come with a good crop of spines. Apparently there is a genetic link between the two. We’re picking green Invicta  now, our Xenia, a new early red variety will start soon.

Meanwhile we plug on with Asparagus, but the end is in sight, so please don’t come in July and ask when the Asparagus season starts. We’ll all cry!!

The frosts a couple of weeks back have done some damage, we’ve lost some Victoria plums and have nice frost rings on our Katy apples. luckily they’ll be squashed for cider so cosmetics don’t matter. We hear from other areas that there has been considerable damage to all sorts of crops, also through most of Northern Europe.

I hope everybody is getting excited by the election (yawn). Unfortunately our strong and stable leader still has given us no clues about whether we shall be able to recruit seasonal workers in 2 years time. Having done this job for 39 years I wanted to give up on my terms and not be forced out by a political decision. We shall have to presume that 2018 will be our last year producing lovely fruit and veg for you all unless something is worked out for the post brexit times.

Swallows

William Hebditch - May 17th, 2017.

We’re still plugging away with Asparagus. So far quality has held up well. Our intention is to finish by the middle of June, so fill your boots now! Should have some gooseberries before the end of the month and we’ve also got very flavoursome rhubarb and Globe artichokes.

No doubt changes in farming practices will be blamed for our total lack of Swallows, House Martins, Swifts and Cuckoos. It’s so strange not to have any nesting on the farm this year. We sent off a good number last autumn but so few returnees. I wonder where it all went wrong. I wonder how long it will take for the populations to recover. Perhaps in other areas there are plenty. I hope so.

A friend recently returned from Seville said there were lots there. Perhaps some of those were from here and realise the situation is not so good for migrants to the UK. Oh but with a strong and stable something? all will be ok.

 

Pigeons

William Hebditch - May 10th, 2017.

Yet another slight frost this morning. I can’t remember frosts this late in May for ages! Looks like we have some damage, which was inevitable, but not enough to cause real concerns.

It’s that time of year when baby fruits disappear into the new growth of leaves and you become quite concerned that there’s nothing there. Then come Derby day you should be able to estimate crop loads quite accurately. Well, that’s the theory. Usually you over estimate after a previous big crop and vice versa. I do know we have plenty of plums and some cherries on a few of the varieties. Concerned about Kordia and Regina, my two absolute favourite varieties, which look a bit light. Trouble is the blessed pigeons like grazing leaves and tiny green cherries particularly on, you guessed it, Kordia and Regina.

Meanwhile Gooseberries are getting bigger, should be picking before the end of May. We’ve a few more Xenia, an early red goosegog which is looking well at present. We’ve also got some trial, coded, raspberries which are looking really early. It will be interesting to see what they are like. The cane is not too brilliant but the baby new cane “spawn” is looking good. Probably need some rain to keep it all going, but it’s lovely to be working in the dry!

Asparagus is still going. We’ve just pulled out of our young patch to let it build up for next season. It’s always rather strange to finish harvesting a field so early. Of course that’s down to a history of apple growing where harvest doesn’t start till autumn.