The orchards are a sea of mud making spraying and fertilising operations very difficult. Fourwheel- drive has been very useful!
The winter was also very cold and wet but, to add to that, we had two helping’s of snow. Our snow plough was very busy keeping the roads open for our factory, and the local residents, with snow drifts between 5 to 7 feet deep in places. Twice we lost control of the road and had two lorries stuck; which had to be pulled out, together with 20 or so cars, before we could clear the drift with a tele-handler brought in by the local farmer Eddie Kingsford. We had our newest tractor spreading salt, with the help of Phil Acock and factory staff spreading grit by hand. At times it was so cold (between -6 and -11 degrees) that the road salt would not work.
During the winter we grubbed the second half of our Gala orchard and the trees have been ordered for the winter of 2019/2020 – more Bramley apple trees.
We are expanding our pheromone spoiler experiment this coming season into two more orchards, as last season it seemed quite successful in combatting the Codling moths. Although the winter was very wet we appear to be only very slightly behind with our pruning.
Our second oldest tractor, which is 52 years old, has had to have an engine rebuild, the only major repair it has ever had. Barry, the mechanic, has said it may last for another 52 years! Our 3 modern tractors are going to last half of that time.
Our rabbit population is making a small comeback with numbers increasing for the first time in three years. The Chinese Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD) was taking its toll: it was common to find dead rabbits with no visible cause of death – a trade mark of VHD. The field fares were here in larger numbers during the winter and our buzzards are much in evidence as are the pheasants.
Ian Witherden at Fourayes Farm.