Open, Opener, Openest

IMG_20180626_182540At the risk of repeating myself: The Piggeries Orchard is now officially open!

We sort-of opened it when planting the fruit trees on February 10th, 2018.

Richard “Scissors” H cut the ribbon and really officially opened it on June 2nd, 2018: Time to Celebrate.

I do now declare it truly and officially and complete opened, as open as can be, and I promise it shall not be any more open: the noticeboard is in!

The noticeboard was the last remaining item from our list of deliverables. The sign, albeit not the one made from locally grown oak envisioned, was installed this past week. The installation was complete just in time before the London in Bloom inspection. Such is the way of miracles and wonders!

From the bottom of our watering buckets, wheelbarrows, wellies and from the bottom of our hearts: Thank you so much for supporting this project! It has been the most delightful journey so far.

We appreciate loads of positive feedback whenever we work within the Piggeries Orchard. Many people stop by and share their appreciation. Thank you! It keeps is going. It really does, and it will keep us going well beyond this official completion of the projects. Plans are flying high and wild. Always.

 

 

 

 

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Yellow Rattle Harvest

dscn4063Volunteers have been harvesting Yellow Rattle seed (rhinanthus minorat St Margaret’s Open space this week in our latest effort to manage the meadows and orchards organically.

Yellow Rattle is a herbaceous annual plant with yellow flowers. It is also a parasite to grass or other neighbouring plants, withdrawing nutrients from their root system. In doing so, Yellow Rattle restricts grass growth and increases biodiversity.

The effects are clearly visible where Yellow Rattle is in abundance; grass is less vigorous and other plants such as white clover get a chance, too.

We plan to sow the seed in autumn at St Margaret’s Orchard and The Piggeries Orchard, improving biodiversity and saving ourselves some hay making work.

 

Time To Celebrate

piggeries-openingIt’s time to celebrate the Piggeries Orchard official opening!

Please come join our opening party and casual bring-your-own spring picnic

Saturday June 2nd from 12:00

The Piggeries Orchard (map)

Dignitaries have been invited, fine weather has been requested, the speech is prepared. All that is missing is you!

Bring a friend, bring a smile, bring yourself. Bring some food or drink to the sharing table if you like, but please bring no more than your party would consume and be prepared to take packaging and leftovers back so that we can keep waste to a minimum.

The Piggeries Orchard is wheelchair accessible from Studley Grange Road.

Please be aware of the proximity to the Grand Union Canal when you bring young children, dogs or ducks.

 

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

DSCN2324Songs have been sung about the fact that it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The song does not refer to spring when life returns in abundance, or summer when living is easy, or autumn when we harvest much of the year’s produce. It is of course about Christmas but for me, right now most certainly is one of the most wonderful times of the year.

Many trees are still in flower and the meadows are a sea of green, waving in the breeze and dotted with yellow, white, blue and purple flowers. Life emerges in abundance and with vigour wherever you look. There’s almost no holding back on the nettles or bramble, Giant Hogweed or indeed on apples, cherries, pears, plums or quinces, or anything else.

Why not explore the orchard trail this weekend?

Alone and in peaceful silence, with friends, with dogs, with kids. We have tried all these variants and everyone came out thumbs up and with a smile, every time.

You can view or download our brochure here for guidance.

You will also notice that the spring meadow cutting is under way across the orchard trail, an important and invigorating step in managing a meadow’s annual life cycle. Volunteers are always welcome!  We offer perfect opportunities to work up a sweat, to get stung, to get a suntan, to do something good, to be part of it. And we are very nice people (according to us). Why not join our ranks, once, or twice, or sometimes, or regularly?

Not Funny

not-a-deerThis is not funny. Not funny at all.

In my weekly desperate search for this week’s article, I turned to orchard jokes. A desperate move, I know. I sampled a few of the suggested sites and read a number of jokes. Not a muscle twitched, no grin emerged, but quite a few eyes started rolling. I gave myself a meal and a drink, then read some more. Still nothing.

No matter where my personal humour levels rank between 0 and 100 from your standpoint of view, surely there has to be one truly funny orchard joke that needs to be remembered for all times?

I look forward to reading your offerings. The comments on this post are open for 14 days after publication.

Something For Your Diary

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We’ve got a number of activities coming up and hope to see you at all of them. OK, perhaps some. Or at least one…? No matter how much or how little you can or want to help, no matter how much or how little experience you bring, we’ll take it!

Saturday 12-May-2018 from 10:00

Mulching at The Piggeries orchard. Please note the early start due to the Hanwell Hootie starting in the afternoon so that you can do both!

Saturday 2-June-2018 from 12:00

Casual bring-your-own spring picnic in The Piggeries orchard. No kite flying this time but the grand opening ceremony and official completion of the project shall not be missed.

Saturday 9-June-2018 from 11:00

Mulching, starting with Blackberry Corner in the Hanwell Meadows, then onward the orchard trail until we run out of energy, fine weather or wood chippings.

Saturday 14-July-2018 from 11:00

Wood chipping at The Piggeries orchard with the rangers and their big wood chipper for self-sustained local mulching.

… And of course there is

Tree Tending Tuesday, Every Tuesday from 19:00

Your weekly chance to get involved with light activity and a lively discussion over refreshments. Location varies to meet demand; please see our schedule, join our volunteer email system or follow our Twitter for up-to-date announcements.

We recorded 167 volunteer person hours this year already. Will we reach a thousand? With your help we might.

No Appointment Necessary

DSCN3941We anticipated vandalism in certain areas and got very little, but suffer a series of minor and sometimes larger damage in unexpected areas. The beautiful terraced slopes between Elthorne Park and the Grand Union Canal, which we call Elthorne Terraces, seem to be the hotspot.

Trees are snapped off, branches are torn. Fires are lit, sometimes with the least appropriate fuel of green wood, and of course there’s a range of litter from drink cans and bottles to shoes and garments. Most baffling and frustrating is the repeated theft of rabbit guards. Rabbit guards. Really. I am serious. The prompt return of the little critters and subsequent damage from rabbit bites is guaranteed. Some of the bites marks look more like penknife practise to me, but whether the damage is done directly or by proxy makes no difference to me.

I cannot summarise my exact thoughts and feelings in language suitable for a public web site posting, but I am happy to dispense explicit lectures upon request. No appointment necessary; you’ll find us every Tuesday evening tidying up after you along the orchard trail.

 

 

Climate Change

pollination

First I want it cold, now I want it warm. You’d think I am in a hormonal transition! But truly, we need climate change, and we need it now.

We got through the winter all right, even though the Beast From The East threatens with a chill over the Easter weekend.

Our next challenge is pollination.

Trees are very sensitive to cold weather at flowering time and a night of frost can wipe out a large proportion of the crop. Even without frost, damp and outright wet conditions prevent many pollinators from flying: While bees can fly in the rain for limited distances, they like cold rain about as much as you or I. And there is the temperature to consider:

Pollen germination requires at least ~5 C, and the all-important pollen tube grows very slowly below 10 C. When it grows too slowly, the pollen deteriorates before fertilisation occurs.

So, we need 10 C at least, and reasonably dry conditions for the pollinators to fly and do their job. Honey bees fly from ~16 or 18 C, bumble bees and solitary bees begin 5 degrees earlier.

In other words: we need climate change.

We need a warm spring with just the right amount of rain, followed by those sunny long summer days and balmy evenings before a glorious golden autumn awaits us, full of sunshine and full of fruit which somehow managed to grow and ripen against all these odds and challenges.

Having said all that:

Happy Easter!

Join us after the Easter celebrations for our first Tree Tending Tuesday of the year!

We’ll meet Tuesday April 3rd, 18:30 o’clock at Elthorne Triangles by the Trumpers Way Scout Hut. No tools or experience necessary!

A Chilling Thought

daffThey forecast another cold spell for this weekend as I write these lines. After this past week’s balmy weather, this could spell trouble for early opening buds.

But did you know that cold is good, if done right, for fruit trees and biennial plants like cabbage, sugar beet, celery or carrot? These plants all need to reach deep sleep through a cold period before they can blossom. Much like we rest through the night, apple trees, for example, typically need 1000 hours below 6 or 7 C, and not too much below 0 degrees through the dark season.

Of course we all know that much below freezing is called “freezing” for a reason! It’s no longer a chill, and much above 6 or 7 degrees makes some boys peel their shirts off. A chill is between 0 and 6 or 7 degrees, give or take.

1000 hours, that’s 42 days or a month and a half to you and me. The chill units don’t have to be sustained just like we don’t need to slumber through 6 to 8 hours of deep sleep every night (scientifically known as NREM Stage 3). It seems obvious, but is not clear to me, just how much fluctuation in temperature the trees can take before they are stuck in light sleep and fail to reach full dormancy.

Please let us know if you are a local fruit tree whisperer.

Different varieties and different species have varying chill unit requirements. Local weather records shows that most of February, much of January and some of December should qualify for plenty of apple tree chill hours, albeit not always continuously.

A third of the orchard trail has been planted three years ago and trees are looking fabulous, so we should see those trees bear a reasonable harvest thanks to the lovely cold. Provided the bees will fly at the time of blossom, and no hard frost will hit late, and the many other factors that make successful organic fruit growing a bit of a game of chance won’t come to fruition. Fingers crossed!

At least it’s nice to know that we have been shivering for a good cause, don’t you agree?

Allied Forces

1454758625797Our March Saturday of Orchard Love is coming up soon. Thankfully there isn’t much work along the orchard trail right now, so why not help out our friends from Southall Transition with their big planting day for the Southall Orchard Project?

Please come help plant the Jubilee Park Orchard on Saturday 10 March 2018, 10:30 – 14:30.

They will supply tools, refreshments and the Mayor of Ealing. All you need do is let them know that you are coming (please register here), wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriate for the weather and the occasion.

(photo by Southall Transition)