Orchard Report Fourayes Farm: Autumn 2019

At the time of writing, we have just finished the Bramley harvest which started very dry, sometimes very hot and dusty, until 24th September when the heavens opened. By the end of the Bramley harvest we have had 100mm of rain. This turned the latter part of the harvest into a very wet, soggy affair.

Our pheromone spoiler experiment went well again this season. We added two more orchards to the programme and, again, Codling and Summer Fruit Tortrix moths did not have to be sprayed for.

We have just had our new snow plough frame delivered so we can fit our existing plough to our new John Deere tractor. That will make us better prepared for the coming winter.

We are just coming into the time of year when we have fallen trees to re-stake, autumn mowing and spraying to do and pruning starts at leaf fall during November.

Our new orchard will be staked and planted during the winter.

Also, during November, one of our agronomists will take soil samples. Using this and our previously-taken leaf and apple samples, we will be able to determine how much fertiliser we will need and if lime is needed to adjust soil PH in any of our orchards.

On the nature front I have seen the odd rabbit around the farm with Myxomatosis, which is quite normal for September and October. It will probably not amount to much. I have not seen any evidence recently of the Chinese VHD virus affecting the rabbits.

Rabbit numbers are still low on the farm, but I am still controlling on a nearby farm where the numbers are up. Some years ago, while controlling rabbits at Yalding in the dark with a spotlight, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was as if something was watching me from behind. I looked round but could see nothing.

The next day wild boar tracks were found which solved the mystery.

Over the years, in the Bicknor and Detling areas, I have had the same sensation but had not seen anything. Two days before writing this piece, myself and a staff member looked across an open field next to our orchard and saw, at about 300 yards, a large black cat bigger than my large black Labrador. It walked slowly along a field edge in the shadow, paused for a fraction of a second, looked our way and then stepped through the hedge and was gone. We both looked at each other and said ‘did you see that?’

The following day a fox walked in the same place and was tiny in comparison. The mystery deepens.

All the best from Ian and all at Fourayes Farm.