Dolce Far Niente

demijohnAre you making your own Cider? Have you joined the discussion about the right type of yeast yet, whether to wash, to dance around it during a full moon or sing to it naked?

We hadn’t. Our Cider-making experiment failed thanks to our blissful ignorance. We hadn’t even thought of an airlock, I admit in shame. Ah, expert advisers told us dismissively, you’ll get nothing but vinegar!

And vinegar we got. Beautiful, aromatic, golden, delicious home-made cider vinegar. We are now making our own cider vinegar in the third year, and a few litres see us through the entire year. That wouldn’t happen if it was delicious cider, would it?

Here’s how:

Don’t wash or peel the apples to include the natural yeast which sits on the skin, just mechanically remove dirt, blemishes and anything which moves or wiggles. Press juice into a large pot. Leave standing open for a few hours to attract more natural yeasts, then put the lid on loosely, keep it at low room temperature away from direct sunlight, and do nothing.

White spots appear on the surface after a few days. Do nothing.

The surface develops a skin with more white spots, and eventually bubbles begin to form. Do nothing. Do nothing until the process is finished. After 7 to 10 days the bubbles stop. The yeast turned the sugars into alcohol, which oxidised into acid: the vinegar emerges!

Filter it through a muslin into a large bottle, canister or demijohn. Be careful not to close it tightly because the fermentation may not have completely finished after all. We put it on the shelf for a couple of weeks, then filter it through a coffee paper filter into pasteurised bottles and use it through the year.

It couldn’t be easier to make and fills me with pride and joy every day when I use our own vinegar.

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Seasonal Changes

_MG_9310We had to suspend our weekly Tree Tending Tuesday meetings until spring 2018 due to the now early darkness. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who came to help on numerous occasions!

We recorded over 430 volunteer hours along the orchard trail for 2017 so far, with more to come! We think it shows: grass and meadow flowers are emerging and slowly taking over from nettles and brambles in the Osterley Lock, Piggeries, St Margaret’s and Blackberry Corner orchards. Elthorne Terrace, Elthorne Triangles, Trumpers Field, the Hanwell Meadows, Three Bridges Park and Glade Lane Canalside Park, Top Lock and Bixley Triangle also saw a lot of attention this year. In addition to weed bashing and rubbish removal, trees were pruned and fitted with better rabbit guards. We are now preparing to replace the worn-out and washed-out tree variety labels soon.

It’s never too late to join the fun! Our dedicated web page shows status and planned work on all sites, and active members coordinate using the volunteer email list.

More fun activity events are coming up in October and November!

Ontario Bridge

DSCN3613Did you know that the bridge often called the Trumpers Way Bridge really is Ontario Bridge, although officially known as Grand Union Canal bridge 205a?

We knew about Ontario Bridge for a while but keep forgetting, so here it is once and for all. Repeat after me: Ontario Bridge. Ontario. Ontario.

We can’t work out why or when this bridge has been given this name, and with so few references, we aren’t entirely sure if this name is official in any way.

Please come forward if you can contribute to this discussion.

 

Train In The Distance

steam-locoWho doesn’t like the sound of a train in the distance?

You will all have seen or heard the freight train travelling alongside the Hanwell Meadows, and many will have used the railway crossing behind lock 97 at the bottom end of Green Lane.

The railway and history buffs from disused-stations.org.uk put together a lovely article about the now disused Trumpers Crossing Halt, exactly where the foot crossing is located now. How exciting it must have been to walk down Green Lane, cross the canal and the meadow, then wait for the GWR service to Brentford Dock!

The line is used for a freight train service today, connecting a station in Brentford with the main line in Southall with an on-demand schedule within permitted time slots, a slow but sometimes rather impressively long train. Most carriages are said to carry crushed concrete for re-use in road and building works, but other recycled material and some landfill is also said to travel along that line.

Every now and then the discussion flares up whether the line could or should be reopened for public passenger use, for example linking Brentford to the Southall Crossrail halt. I doubt even the most enthusiastic proposals include the resurrection of the Trumpers Crossing Halt, however.

The Seed Detective Returns

sunflower-in-vaseAdam “Seed Detective” Alexander returns with a talk about saving seed from your own garden or allotment plants. Our friends from the Billet Hart Allotment Association have kindly extended their invitation to members of the Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail once again.

Some of us have seen Adam in action in his previous lecture and thoroughly enjoyed an informative and inspiring evening.

Friday 29th September 2017, 19:00 (doors), 19:30 (talk starts). The talk will take approximately one hour, followed by questions and answers.

A glass of wine or soft drink is included in the £10 fee.

See their flyer for detail and booking.

City Next Week

_mg_8669Have you always wanted to know how the Orchard trail started?

Are you interested in what we do week after week, month after month and year after year to maintain the orchards along the canal?

Do you want to know what other projects are featured in the museum of London exhibition?

Come to our lunchtime session in the London Museum! Full detail at http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/event-detail?id=122408

… and maybe have a walk around the City Now City Future exhibition afterwards to  explore how others shape the city: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/citynowcityfuture

 

Acrobats’ Advice

img_20160710_184605Early apple varieties are now beginning to ripen and the pears aren’t far behind, just looking for a little more time and sunshine.

While trees planted with our orchard trail do not yet bear a lot of fruit this year, more mature trees in the area carry a substantial amount of the delicious and versatile fruit. Good news for foragers on two or more legs!

It is however sad to see that some human foragers apply unnecessary force and rather shortsightedly use destructive methods when picking fruit. Some branches are torn and twisted, broken off and some trees left damaged and vulnerable to infections. Apart from lasting damage to trees, we also witnessed an eager forager falling from a tree. The young man got away without apparent lasting damage, but we were sure this was a close call.

The rule for picking fruit is quite simple: if it doesn’t want to come off very easily with a small twist or light pull, then it does not yet want to come off and is not yet ready for picking. There should never be a need for force, but you might want to bring a pole, a walking stick or a telescopic fruit picker to extend your arm’s reach without dangerous acrobatics.

Please use care and consideration for private land, nature, the law, other foragers and the very tree you are harvesting when foraging so that everyone can enjoy these resources in years to come. Oh, and take good care of yourself 🙂

Vandalism News

summersun-vandalisedThe vandals have been busy doing their mindless destruction once again. This time we mourn the loss of a Summersun Cherry, tree #55 on Elthorne Terrace, and the nearby Orleanne’s Reinette Apple, tree #60.

The Reinette was a poor thing to begin with, but did show good spirits and a strong will to live. The cherry was doing wonderfully well and could have delighted many in years to come, but has now been torn and broken.

We all share a sense of sadness and frustration in the face of these mindless acts.

Blackberry Season

blackberry-jam-and-ginYou will have noticed what an excellent Blackberry year we have, with an abundance of lush, soft, sweet and surprisingly large fruit. Many of us have been busy making jam, juice and flavoured gin over the past weeks.

Here are some Blackberry Muffins, the perfect way to start a Sunday. This takes 10 minutes to prepare and 15 to bake, so it is easy to make in time for breakfast:

100 g white wheat flour, 80 g soft butter, 75 g sugar, 80 ml whole milk at room temperature. One free range egg yolk, seeds from half a vanilla pod or half a teaspoon of vanilla essence, and one generous teaspoon of baking powder.

Put butter and sugar into a bowl, using the hand mixer on low gear to mix thoroughly. Add egg, vanilla, milk and baking soda, then gradually add the flour into the mix. Mix until smooth. You’ll find the mix will be fairly runny, maybe like a thick yogurt. Perfect!

Gently fold in one or two handful of Blackberries or Raspberries. Fill muffin cups to approximately two thirds. We prefer non-sticking silicone or paper cups, but you can of course get the old muffin tray out for the occasion.

Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 10..15 minutes. Use a wooden stick or visual judgement to determine when they are ready.

You’ll find that the Blackberries are very easy pickings along the canal towpath or in the Hanwell Meadows. The plants do a good job at defending themselves and growing back, but please be mindful and avoid damage to plants and surroundings when foraging.

Statistically Speaking

DSC_0611Statistically speaking, the average orchardist is a poor keeper of statistics. We plan on improving our habits, but I am sure someone can tell me how long this resolve typically lasts, statistically speaking.

In the absence of hard numbers, I estimated the time spent working in and around the orchard trail to be approximately 300 volunteer hours in 2017 so far. And we are only half way into the year!

My estimation is based on past dates in the diary, recollection and website articles about some events, group photos taken at the larger events. It does not include the social hours at a certain inn, our popular meadow picnics, training classes, ward forum meetings or committee meetings.

We’ll be turning three in October, and I reckon we might be looking back at something between 1500 and 2000 person hours spend clearing, cleaning, watering, pruning and rubbish collecting over that time. A big, big, thank you!

Here are some pictures of people at work in the orchards to bring back memories and inspire new volunteers.