At last, some trees

Ticklepenny Orchard is go

I’m a day late blogging and I’m not even sorry. I’ve got big news. Cosmic, blog-altering news. There are spoilers in the above photograph.

Before that though, a catch up on the week’s other events. I had intended to head over to Louth and get some work done on the orchard site but I ended up having to work instead. The tyranny of monthly bills strikes again. Unfortunately, that meant that my trees were likely to be stuck at my dad’s house for the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday, addled by despondency, I decided to hand over half of this year’s apple yield to a long time supporter of the blog. To avoid her being ridiculed by friends, I’ll not name her (it’s Amy) but suffice to say her encouragement and enthusiasm (before she got totally bored at about episode 6) was vital to my dogged commitment to this ultimately pointless endeavour.

As I sat at work later on, poring over my calendar in search of a free day for a ride over to Louth, I received a text message from the misty blue yonder revealing that my step brother had returned from his annual 8 month long shift laying power cables at music festivals and fancied a trip to see his (and my) folks. Suddenly, despair faded and I was back on course.

So it was that yesterday, after a brief morning session in the library doing my actual job, we joined forces with my dad and his good wife Barbara and got some trees planted. I kid you not. I have an actual, real-life orchard. Take that, haters. Here’s how it happened (this is the cosmic, blog-altering news by the way, in case you hadn’t realised).

Step one, fence off a suitable area so Barbara’s horses can’t munch through my tiny baby apple trees while they’re still fragile. I had nothing to do with this bit. I can only imagine the balls-up possibilities that would come from me handling electrical fencing.

20190914_152901.jpgStep two, start digging. Each tree, I had learned previously, needed a meter square area of deforestation so the turf wouldn’t compete with it for nutrients. Easier said than done as it turned out. The ground was rock hard and the labour force was soon arguing about what exactly “scraping away the turf” meant. My stepbrother dug a trench that Great War soldiers would have felt secure in. I vaguely scratched away at the topsoil so it was a bit less green. Somewhere in between, we managed to clear six suitable areas of competition-free real estate.

Next up (step two, part two), more digging. This time we needed one foot deep holes for the trees to be planted in. This was when I discovered that the ground hereabouts is made up of densely packed rock, assembled by some malevolent subterranean dry stone wall expert. You cannot imagine the suffering me and my brother (who, I suspect, had very little idea what was going on or how he’d been roped into this folly) endured at the end of those spades. Afternoon stretched into slightly later afternoon as we toiled away. It was a manual labour life sentence that I could only have imagined when I was studying Marxist politics at college and wondering exactly what chains workers were supposed to be losing.

Fortunately for us two slack-jawed (relative) youngsters, my aged father soon grew tired of the paucity of our labour and took over himself, finishing the job in the blink of an eye. Step two done.

Step three, put trees in the actual ground. After ladling some blood and fishbones into the six completed holes (trees love it apparently, although I’m suspicious about how they came to prefer a diet of sea creatures), the time had come to gently ease the infant fruit trees out of their plastic pots, gently loosen a few roots from the densely packed soil therein, and ease them into their new homes.

First up, nearest the looming hawthorn tree that marks the edge of the field, Dr Clifford and his crisp white cooking apples. This is the first of the three Grimoldby natives I’ve got and the largest of the six trees. It’s also the source of the entire yield of two apples I shared with my friend Amy. Next year I’m hoping it supplies enough fruit to keep me pied up during the harsh Autumn months. After placing the tree carefully in the ground, we filled the rest of the hole with earth and applied liberal amounts of super-rich compost and locally sourced rainwater.

Next to Dr Clifford stands Barnack Beauty, a dual purpose apple originating from a village that was once thought to be in Lincolnshire but then turned out to be in Cambridgeshire. It’s a geographic imposter, I will readily concede, but apparently it tastes nicer than most proper Lincolnshire apples and it’s part of Lincolnshire fruit heritage morally if not legally.

20190914_172340.jpgThe cookers planted, it was time for the altogether more scrawny dessert types; Ingall’s Red, Ingall’s Pippin, Lord Burghley and Ellison’s Orange. Each one proceeded roughly along the same lines as the first two: squirrel roots out of the pot-compacted lump of muck, gently place in the earth, secure with soil, sprinkle with compost and then drown with water. Once all six were safely and firmly planted, we applied plastic curly tubes to protect them from villainous invading rabbits and sat back to take in the view.

If I had a soul, I’d have shed a tear. Only six short months since I started the blog, and about six years since I started whining about my plans to nearby friends (and strangers), I have an orchard. It comprises six heritage trees, none of them lost as per the initial mandate, but heritage and historic nonetheless. I’ve got three more coming in a few months and then next year I can start slowly investigating and looking for more obscure varieties at my leisure.

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