After one of the the worst years for apple production in living memory, there has been a great deal of uncertainty about the 2013 season. A late cold spring led to much anxious speculation about the set of the blossom. However there are now predictions of a ‘bumper’ harvest in 2013 … whatever that may mean. The Ledbury Reporter rang Annie a few weeks ago to seek her views and for once actually managed to accurately quote her as being ‘cautiously optimistic’. Early signs are encouraging but we won’t count our apples until they are all in. My Mother used to wisely remark ‘there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip’.
We have been able to pick a good few plums and have just finished making jam and chutney with the Czars. There has been another excellent crop of greengages and we had enough to send 75 x 10 kgs trays off to a local wholesaler in Evesham. Their flavour is really intense this year with the right balance of acidity and sweetness. We have also gathered in the Kirks’ Blue and Yellow Eggs. We are often away when the plums ripen as one never knows exactly when this will happen. It is good to be here and be able to pick them at the right time and get them into the cold store so we can extend the time we can make use of them for making preserves.
We are now picking the Discovery for juicing this week. The mill and press have been dusted off and made ready for a busy crushing season over the next 3 months. With a good bit of sunshine this summer, the sugar levels in the apples are better than last year. Despite that last year’s Discovery juice did win top prize again at The Bath and West Show in June.
This summer we have had two new additions to the occupants of Dragon House in the shape of ‘Simone’ de Beauvoir and ‘Edith’ Piaf, both Snow Bengal cats. We have adopted them from a young itinerant cello playing friend of ours who has had to move to London Town to seek ‘fame and fortune’. She performs with Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo and has just set up a quartet (yet to be named) with three other women. They have already secured an advertising engagement with Cadburys, so should be making an appearance on our screens at some point. The cats have settled in very well and have rapidly made the orchard their home and are even helping out with the apple picking. It seemed a little unfair to inflict this new situation on Zeiki, the aged German Pointer, but they seem to have sorted out their differences and mostly ignore each other.
The Big Hug receives running repairs
Two horrible wet winters and a soaking summer in between have not been kind to the strawbale wall known as the Big Hug in Dorothy’s Orchard. It has taken quite a battering and has developed some large cracks and the odd hole which has been expanded and extended to create temporary living accommodation for a rodent or two. We called upon the expertise of Steve, our wonderfully adaptable orchard worker and Jack of Many Trades. He along with his son and daughter had an end of summer day in the orchard and have done a sterling job raking out the cracks, filling the holes with straw and applying a base layer of plaster. This has now been covered with a smoother top coat and will be ready for limewash in another week or so. This may have been accomplished around apple picking but we might need a work party at the Harvest Weekend in October.
Ledbury in the news
On Saturday 7th September an article appeared in the Weekend section of the Times entitled 'A Weekend in … Ledbury'. The author Richard Whitehead wondered if this was just what David Cameron had in mind when he appointed his ‘shopping czar’ Mary Portas. He liked the bookshops, delis and butchers but was particularly impressed with what he deemed the "magnificent Three Counties Cider Shop that lets you taste from a huge range of local varieties before you buy”. So on your next visit to Ledbury remember to enjoy the rustic magnificence that is the Three Counties Cider Shop.
Two new draught ciders
Of particular interest in the Cider Shop are our two new draught ciders. Following the success of Tumpy Ground, there has been demand to widen the range which Simon has now answered. The blend of Kingston Black and Somerset Redstreak known as Kingston Redstreak is now available on tap alongside a new cider which is our first attempt to produce a cider from a blend of dessert apples. Known as Dorothy’s Cider, this is a fine dry cider made with fruit from Dorothy’s Orchard. Simon has created a lovely label with the geese of which my Mother was particularly fond. She would have loved it.
Cider Club - up and running
Following the launch at the Crown at Woolhope at the last Big Apple in May, the Three Counties Cider Shop Cider Club is up and running. The inaugural meeting tasted the winners of various competitions and Simon devised a tasting and scoring matrix to be filled in by the participants. A fascinating evening and the Once Upon A Tree range featured highly in the overall ratings. The next meeting is on September 18th when they will be visiting Dragon Orchard and walking through the excellent crop of cider apples and discussing harvesting and production techniques. This will be followed by a tasting of Spanish ciders brought back from Simon's recent excursion to the Asturias and the Basque country in search of the esteemed ciders from Spain. Olé!