Orchard management and outdoor cooking

This image of the cellar shows the boiled down (pun anyone?) result of lots of work put in over the summer.  We are just about at the end of bottling season and just getting into using the bottled fruit. Ive been working on cutting up and bottling the last few damaged apples. We produce a lot of fruit and a large portion of it is damaged from pests and diseases in one way or another: codling moth and scab on apples and pears and brown rot on stone fruit are the big ones.  Bottling is great because it is so flexible, simple and forgiving: just cut off the bad bits, cook it up and pour it into a bottle.

On that note, we are trying to manage the orchard as best we can to decrease to the amount of damaged fruit from pests and diseases. Though those of us living here have no problem cutting off a little damage or eating around a worm there are lots of reasons why it would be really great to have better quality fruits all round: they last longer (the granny smith apples I’ve been cutting up are great keeping apples in undamaged form and could be stored all winter, instead  almost all of them had scab or codling and had to be bottled) they are saleable,  easier to manage when stored and disease free trees are healthier and happier.

I’ve just sprayed all of the apple and pear trees in their dormant state with Lime Sulphur. Lime  Sulphur is a commercially used  fungicide/insecticide that is acceptable under most (if not all) organic certifications. It is used for a wide range of different insects and fungal diseases on different plants and trees at different concentrations. It is commercially available but we made our own, by boiling sulphur and hydrated lime together until they bond which is a simple process and much cheaper then buying the spray from a garden shop. Though not very pleasant to apply, it is relatively benign environmentally, made up of small amounts of elements useful and beneficial to most soil types. Spraying is not the only solution, and should not be the only thing one does. Healthy plants and trees living in minerally balanced soil with good structure and balanced microbiology are the essential foundations to disease resistance, just like healthy humans who eat good food are less prone to illness. There has been lots of work done here using grazing animals (goats and geese) to build soil structure and microbiology, soil re-mineralization processes, as well as encouraging  beneficial insects and birds.

I want to say a few words about this outdoor cooking drum, I just love it.  It is a small metal drum that once contained bulk olive oil. These drums are thrown out all the time by restaurants and are easily obtained. It simply has the top cut out and a half round inlet cut out of the side at  the bottom. It is very fast and easy  to make with an angle grinder or could probably be made with tin snips and a punch. Though not as efficient as a rocket stove, I’m amazed at how efficient it is, and how much you can do with a small amount of wood. Its simplicity, both in making and in use is its selling point.  It has a really nice air draw, creating a good hot fire that rarely smokes except when first lit. Its great for roasting chestnuts and eating outside as well as outside jobs that are smelly and/or messy that you don’t want to bring inside, like making dye from black walnuts (above) burning bones to release phosphorous or cooking up bad potatoes for the chooks. Some scrap metal can make a series of great attatchments to go on top and improve and diversify of use, a grate on top holds the pot and allows better air draw around the pot.

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